Monday, August 23, 2010

Jug Mountain Classic

So the weekend was a great success! Not quite a smashing success -- that would have required three blue ribbons -- but successful nonetheless. Bullet points, because I'm at work:

* I learned a LOT listening to Karen O'Connor -- both technically and about the temperament of the highest-level competitors/clinicians. I got so much out of her lessons, even if they're over our heads at the moment.

* Jumped my first "vertical" -- a brushbox. No problem. Stephanie says it was 2'3, I think it was pushing it to be 2'. :)

* Jumped my first grid, a 1 stride to a 2 stride setup. Had some difficulty until I remembered to SIT DOWN before the fences. I'm learning ... :)

* Did well on Intro A, though I got a mark I didn't think I deserved (a 3 for a good transition, only late? I can see a 4, but ... ah well. I are not a judge.). Good enough for a win on the test class, but only 3rd in the Intro division. Still, I <3 ribbons. They get me through dark days when I hate my riding and my horse. ;)

* Had problems on Training 1, because Rev stopped on centerline to poop. :/ That got me flustered and stressed, and then the rest of the test was inconsistent. Though we did get a comment of "some really nice moments to watch," which is encouraging. Didn't place, not by a looooong shot, in the Training category, but that's expected and totally okay.

* Jump round went well -- the warmup area left something to be desired, but was okay. We had a stop at a crossrail made of 1x8 planks painted black and white in this pattern: <<<<>>>>. I knew when I walked the course that that fence would be a problem, and I was really positive going in, but apparently not positive enough, since she stopped. On the other hand, she stopped dead center on the fence, so at least I had a good line going into it ... :) I kicked her butt over the fence the second time, and we finished with just that one stop. When we were done, I asked if I could school that fence a few times, seeing as it was a schooling show, and the judge said yes. So we did. She kept running out left, until the judge (a friend) helped me a little ... we got over the fence, but I didn't feel confident in her advice. I took a second schooling round over the whole course, and as I rode my circle before the whistle, I had a DUH! moment: she's running out left. So use your left leg, dummy! Sheesh. So I did. And she popped right over it. :) The second course ride went much, much better. :)

* Ended up in second place, even with a stop. Woot. :)

* Lots of riders on the show day seemed to have forgotten everything KOC said and made a lot of mistakes -- can't throw stones, since I had a stop myself, but there was one fence that was causing a LOT of riders to drop rails. I think, in my oh-so-vast wisdom, that they were just not on a good line, not getting enough strides in before the fence, and didn't have the impulsion they needed to get over it. I don't recall if the fence had a groundline or not, but I seem to think it didn't, from my course walk. Hm. I didn't have a problem at it, but then again, it was only 20 inches high for me. I wonder how I'd have ridden it if it were higher, whether I'd have had a problem.

* My friend who gave me a ride took a nasty spill and ended up with a mild concussion, but is okay now. We'll see how things develop.

More later, most likely. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sweet relief

Oh, hallelujah. We won't be leaving until Friday morning. Dark o'clock on Friday, but that's okay. I'll still have Thursday night to do things like clean and cook. Not to say that I won't be cleaning tonight, but ... still, much easier to have two evenings to do everything.

Also, my friend is letting me sleep in the back of the trailer, rather than a tent -- another hallelujah!! I would absolutely positively any day of the week and twice on Sunday rather sleep in the trailer than in a tent. It'll be safer for the corgs at night, too.

Okay, a lot of stress just fell away. Deep breaths.

Funny -- it's not the riding that's worrying me! I know I can do it, and if things go pear-shaped there, I can scratch and have no harm done. It's all the life things included in Going To A Show that were stressing me out. Nice change, enh?

Frantic!

Why is it that the week before a show is always when things go pear-shaped in my non-horse life? Yeeesh! Looks like I'll have a long day/night tonight to get everything done that needs to be done before the show.

Things like laundry, dishes, housecleaning, packing my own gear, getting the corgis' gear ready to go, getting the cats' care stuff ready for my friend who's taking care of them, cooking a potluck dish, grocery shopping ... ACK.

Oh, and riding. Somehow I have to get on my horse tonight, too. And I have to find a way to get up in time to longe her tomorrow morning -- I am pretty sure we'll need to be leaving tomorrow night, since my friend has a KOC clinic at 9 AM on Friday.

Aaaaaaaack! *flail*

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ketchup! (warning: long!)

I've been working a lot lately, both in the sense of long hours and the sense of being busy-busy while I'm at my desk, so I apologize for the lack of updates, for anyone following my blog. :)

So what's happened since the Derby? Well ... turns out I separated my shoulder and sprung my ribs. The shoulder separation was only a class 1, so it was as minor as they get, but boy did it hurt. I ended up taking 3 weeks completely off from riding to let my shoulder heal up. Better 3 weeks now than 6-8 later, if I re-injured the joint, right? My ribs are still sore, but they're healing. They take a while.

So in the last 3 weeks, I've been back in the saddle, working hard at things like canter departs and getting Reveille to accept the bridle better. One of the things that the dressage judge commented on at the derby was that she's resistant to my hand, which is the gospel truth. So we're working on it, and I am proud of the progress we're making in the medium walk and free walk! It's not consistent yet, so that's step 3, and then step 4 is getting the acceptance in the trot. We're approaching the "nose slightly ahead of the vertical" place, woohoo!

Up until last Thursday, everything I'd been doing was on the flat, no jumping. This last weekend, though, was Event Camp part II -- woohoo again!!

So I asked MT if I could have a jumping lesson before camp, just so that I'd not be in the position of not having jumped for a month before a weekend full of jumping. A few weather-related shenanigans later, Rev and I had a lesson on Thursday night. I had a really good time, actually, and I discovered that a lot of my worry and fear had dissipated after Rafter K and 3 weeks off. (Probably because, during that 3 weeks, I spent about 75% of my time thinking about jumping and how to do it better!) We weren't perfect, but we did a lot of things right, and I learned some new details.

Okay, I thought, we were ready for camp!

So. Friday we had 2 cross-country lessons of an hour and a half each. I had an absolute BALL. :) We started cantering fences confidently! I'm really learning how great Rev is to ride over fences, and it was super-fun. It was also super-hot, but ... well, that's summer in Idaho. Friday night, my quads and my core were much more tired than I thought they'd be, though. I'd thought I'd made more progress on the fitness scale!

Um, turns out I'd ridden all of Thursday and all of Friday with my right stirrup an inch shorter than my left. Whoops ... how embarrassing! I *thought* it felt weird!

Anyway, Saturday was more jumping fun, and a couple of other riders joined us. I love having more people in the group lessons (up to a point), because I get to pick up so much from their rides in addition to my own.

But by Saturday late evening, I was absolutely wiped out. I'd pushed past muscle fatigue into ... well, whatever comes after that. Enough that I overslept on Sunday morning and missed my course walk! ACK! Fortunately, the course was simple, and we'd jumped everything on the course over the previous two days.

Turns out, though, that all that fatigue and sleepiness was probably directly related to the fact that I came down with stomach flu about 30 minutes before I was supposed to ride the full course. I tell ya, there's nothing like leaping off your horse, shoving the reins at a bystander, and then bolting for the bathroom. :/ I was pretty annoyed at myself for getting sick right then -- it couldn't have waited an hour? I really wanted to finish camp, but I have a rule about throwing up -- one and done.

Anyway, I'm at work today, maybe inadvisably, but I have to earn money for our next outing next week!

We're heading to McCall for the Jug Mountain Classic, and I'm excited. :) A friend is generously giving Rev and me a ride up there, since I don't have a truck or trailer. I'm thrilled to have another chance to get Rev out and about, and what's more, Karen O'Connor is doing lessons at the show! I can't afford a lesson with her, and at this point it's pretty well over our heads, but I am definitely going to audit everything I can and absorb as much as possible.

So this week -- after today, which is a well-deserved rest day for me and Rev both -- we'll be practicing Training Level test 1 and balance in the canter, and we'll head north on Friday morning.

Squee!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

And incidentally ... I've now completed my motto: Nana korobi, yaoki. I have fallen seven times, risen eight. I think this is just going to go up incrementally, but ... I'm amused.

It was only a derby. :)

That went, overall, very well. :D

THE GOOD:

* Reveille was a star. She was pretty calm and quite rideable all weekend, even on Saturday when she was somewhat insecure.

* Our jumping rounds went beautifully -- not a hesitation or a spook at a jump anywhere.

* Stabling was comfortable, and Rev was a good girl with new horses.

* We -- the folks from our barn -- had a great time hanging out together and supporting each other.

* I met a lot of really nice people who I'll look forward to seeing again.

* I got to hang out with a lot of really nice people who I already know and only get to see at shows.

* The weather was beautiful and perfect.

* The facility we were at was gorgeous -- amazing scenery, lovely arenas and jumps, all of it; and the owner is a nice fellow.

* I felt very confident going into our jump rounds on Sunday -- I felt like I had my ducks in a row, and there was no fear. Just knowing what I needed to do, acknowledging that I could walk Rev if I needed to, and confidence that we'd get through just fine.


THE BAD

* I don't think I'll ever clinic with that particular teacher again. She started us off with obstacles way bigger than any of us were ready for, including a solid obstacle -- those aren't really okay at cross-rails level. She's not a bad teacher, I think, but she's not one I want to take more lessons from.

* The solid obstacle I mentioned ... well, it was much bigger than we'd ever jumped before. I decided we'd go for it anyway. Rev jumped it the first time, which was good, but I came way, way off balance after. I should have had my feet farther forward. I would have been able to recover if Rev hadn't started bucking. :/ As it was, I cussed once on the way down, then landed on my shoulder and ribcage, rolled all the way over, and rolled all the way onto my feet. I didn't think much of it at the time, but as it turns out, that hurt kind of a lot. I think I damaged some of the soft tissue in my shoulder, as well as an impressive deep muscle bruise. Go, go, gadget ice/ibuprofen/heat.

* Rev was kind of bratty when we weren't jumping. This taught me a few things: one, I can be much more forceful than I was being, and everything will be okay. Two, I shouldn't start warming her up for jumping so early. By the time we went for our cross-rails round, she was pissed. off. at not really doing anything for so long. She was ready to GO. So that's a good thing to know.

* Dressage ride times at 7:30 AM SUCK. SUCK SUCK SUCK. I'm so much better in the saddle when I've been able to get some sleep.

* I don't think I'll tent-camp at a show again. I'll sleep in the back of the car, in the back of the horse trailer, whatever ... I might even sleep in a much larger tent, but not my little dome tent again.



So ... yeah. A success. I will probably post more later, but for now, must work.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Holy crap, it's tomorrow?!

So, yeah. My original plan didn't work out quite the way I'd planned. I ended up having to work a bit late last night, then had to pick up a cot and a camp chair (which took me two stores to do), then had to get some food put together for the show, et cetera. I didn't get to ride, which is a real bummer.

I'll ride tonight, though, and get my tack and barn accessories loaded into the trailer. Then home to pack up the home stuff, test my tent, pack up the dogs, get the cooler ready, do laundry, pack the laundry, and try to get some sleep.

I doubt I'll have a chance to bathe Rev, but maybe I'll find someone to hold her while I wash her tail at least. She'll be clean enough if I just do the hot toweling bit, especially because this is just. a. derby.

Rev has nice neat feet, and new shoes on the front, too. Cliff decided to put nifty aluminum jumping shoes on her, and it's pretty fun. Very shiny!

We had a jumping lesson on Wednesday, too. I got some things right that I hadn't been able to get right in the past, and MT had some good things to say after the lesson. I did, however, find myself spooked about jumping her out of the canter, even though we didn't have any trouble with it. I just need to jump a thousand more jumps, honestly, and lose the nerves. I WILL get over it. As much because I really want to get over it as anything.

I also discovered that certain movements make my back hurt like a bitch. :/ I jumped ahead of Rev once, and when we landed my back seized up and it felt like things were grinding against each other ... ow. Fortunately, Rev seems to know when things are really wrong, as opposed to me just being worried, and she takes very good care of me then. She just walked slowly to the center, without me having to steer her much, and let me move around until I got my back unlocked and my head stopped swimming. Good horse.

But yes, progress is being made. Mantra: I have time. Mantra: It's okay to be scared. Acknowlege the fear, and then focus on what you have to DO. Feel vs. act -- choose act.

I also decided, while pondering fear, that the important part of the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, as written by Frank Herbert, is not "I must not fear."

No, the important part is: "And when [the fear] has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." I, and the knowledge of things I need to do. Thank you, Paul Atreides.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My assigned blackboard lines:

"I must not be nervous. If I'm nervous, Reveille will be nervous, and that doesn't help."

I need to write this on the blackboard 500 times, and I need to not be thinking of things to be nervous about while I do it!

Meanwhile, allow me to demonstrate my neurosis. I'm listing out the things I need to do/get/pack before the teeny tiny little derby:

THURSDAY

* Get tire fixed
* Get wiper fluid
* Brakes?
* empty cooler
* Ride!!

FRIDAY

* Ride!!
* Clean tack
* Grocery shopping, unless I do it Thursday
* Pack car
* Load trailer with tack
* Bathe horse?


SATURDAY

8 AM leave for Rafter K



PACKING LIST

TACK

* dressage saddle
* jump saddle
* dressage show pad
* dressage fleece pad
* jump fleece pad
* jump show pad
* bridle
* breastplate
* side reins


ACCESSORIES

* white brushing boots
* blue show boots
* brushes, etc
* stud chain
* sit-tite
* longe line
* longe whip
* large blue bucket
* hay net
* small yellow bucket
* dish soap (small)
* towel


MY CLOTHES

* helmet
* schooling cover
* velvet cover
* event cover
* event vest
* show shirt
* show coat
* schooling breeches
* show breeches
* white breeches
* event polo
* bandanas
* boots
* spurs
* gloves
* 3x underwear
* 3x socks
* Smartwool socks
* black polo
* 2x t-shirt
* sweatshirt
* black thermal
* jeans
* jammies
* warm hat

MY ACCESSORIES

* bathroom kit
* bug spray
* sunblock
* tent
* cot
* chair
* sleeping bag
* pillow
* medicines


SHOPPING

* cot
* chair
* bug spray
* Powerade Zero
* water
* Luna bars, 3
* ice
* carrots
* green onions
* steak for fire meat


FOOD TO PACK

* marinate fire meat
* rice/dragon noodles?
* veggies
* hard boiled eggs
* cookies
* tinfoil


Why YES, I'm over-packing a bit, especially with the clothes. Why do you ask? Seriously, it'll be in the high 40s at night and in the morning at the show ground, so I'll need warm clothes for Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Anyway. It's JUST A DERBY. JUST A DERBY. JUST a derby. My horse is five. I'm not a professional. If things don't go perfectly, that's totally understandable. Totally. That's what derbies are FOR.

Relax, self.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Somerset Saddlery review

Oh, and in other news: My Bobby's English Tack rubber reins FINALLY got here from Somerset Saddlery. The reins are lovely, they're the right size, right color, everything. I love the product! Somerset Saddlery was the only online retailer I could find that had them in the brown color and cob size, and they had a great price on the reins.

BUT.

Their order processing and shipping was abysmally slow. I ordered on Monday, June 7. I didn't hear back on shipping schedule at all, so I emailed the customer service address on Friday, June 11. I'd expected that the reins would get packed and shipped that week, based on my experience with other online retailers like State Line, Dover, English Riding Supply, and Legacy Tack.

Customer service got back to me on Saturday, so good turnaround time there, but the answer was that the reins would ship the next week. Hrm. Well, okay, not much I can do about it.

The email saying that my reins had shipped came on June 16th, 9 days after I'd ordered them. I expected shipping to be fairly quick, so I looked for them on the 18th and the 19th ... no dice.

They finally arrived yesterday, the 23rd, two weeks and two days after I ordered them.

I'm not happy about the processing or shipping time at all. On the other hand, I don't know the tack shop's situation: they could have been at an event, the owner (who was the one who emailed and shipped for me) could have been the only one working, they might have had to wait for the reins to arrive in their shop before they could send them to me, or any of a million other not-their-fault and totally forgivable circumstances. They also don't guarantee shipping time, so that's okay there.

I am definitely happy with the product and the price. I couldn't find Bobby's brown cob size rubber reins for a better price anywhere else, and in some cases I couldn't find them at all in that color/size combination. The shipping was reasonable, too.

So overall review: If you're in a hurry and don't want to pay expedited shipping prices, just trust that the shop will ship right away, use Dover instead. However, if price is your main concern, and you don't mind waiting a while, absolutely order from Somerset Saddlery.

Derby planning and excitement

So it turns out that Reveille is a whole 'nother horse under saddle when she's in heat. She's forward, energetic, willing, and listening to me. 0.o This is a surprise, to say the least. She's a pain in the neck on the ground, especially on the way back to her pasture, but under saddle, she's a dream. Effortless to ride. Workable. Strange!! I'll take it, though, and I won't complain.

In other news, I'm getting stupid excited about the event derby coming up. It'll be our first show off-site! It'll be her first trailer ride in three years, too. I hope she loads okay -- I have no reason to think she won't, honestly, except that she hasn't done it in a while. With MT and TD there, though, it shouldn't be a problem. They have experience and authority.

I do have a little trepidation, though, about how she'll be at a new place. The last time I took her to a new place -- three years ago, almost! -- she was more than fine. Then again, whenever we get out into the cross-country field here, she gets really look-y. And she's definitely known to spook at things in the field, even at home. I guess the only thing I can do is ride defensively and pre-emptively, like I've learned to do. Just use the experience I got at horse camp: "Even if you do have a problem, you'll ride through it anyway." And as MT put it, "just remember what you have to do, and do it, and don't think about being scared."

So I'm going in with the assumption that this will be BIG FUN!, and that it won't be scary. :) I'm going to assume that Rev will be a star.

I'm having a good time planning for the event, too, oddly enough. I have a list made of things I need to bring/pack/do. I love the anticipation of events! :)

I do need to find out what TD's schedule is for Monday -- she'll be staying an extra day to teach lessons at a friend's barn near where the derby is, so I'm wondering if she will have time to put a ride on Reveille. Alternatively ... I'm pondering whether I can take Monday off, or just part of Monday, or something, to join in the lesson at the friend's barn. We'll see.

So yes. Excited! *bounce*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Synchronicity

Hahahahaha -- ohhh, I have to laugh, because otherwise I'd cry.

Reveille and I have the same cycle. Our bad weeks are the same. How funny. How sad. Not ironic, though, unless you mean "ironic" in the Alanis Morissette song sense, which is to say, not ironic at all, just annoying.

I didn't realize mares' cycles were 28 days, just like women's. Oh dear.

Anyway, she's a serious pain in the ass on the ground, but I thank my lucky stars that she believes (and MT and I reinforce) that once she's under saddle, it's Work Time. I've been doing pretty well lately with demanding her attention and responsiveness, and that seems to work really well for her. MT, of course, is much better at it than I am. ;)

So she's much more energetic and responsive under saddle when she's in heat, or maybe it's just that the camp did a lot for both of us, getting us to gel and bond. Either way, last night's ride was extremely pleasant. She was well forward, listening, and willing to work. It's SO nice. I've learned that if posting her trot is work, then she doesn't have enough energy. Last night, posting was effortless, and she was carrying me. I wish this would last forever!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Heat

Oh argh. I discovered on Saturday that Rev is officially in season. UGH. She was twitchy, whinnying, and generally antsy on the walk to and from the pasture, tender while I groomed her, and squirrely on the longe line -- squirrely like she rarely is any more.

She did work down, though, and I'm very glad that in general, when she's under saddle, she knows that's work time. Still ... ugh. Damn that biological imperative!

We'll see how she is this evening; I took yesterday off to take care of life stuff of my own.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nikorobi, sanoki. (Warning: Long.)

I wasn't really expecting to have to live up to my motto -- nanakorobi, yaoki, or 'seven times fall, eight rise' -- during event camp. Unfortunately ... I had to embody the motto. And I did, for which I am very proud of myself. Thus the title of the post: 'two times fall, three rise.'

Tuesday went brilliantly. We did a canter pole exercise for the first session, an exercise I'd done before with MT. My teacher for event camp was TD, which is totally fine and wonderful, because she's just as good as MT and, unsurprisingly, has a very similar teaching style. Reveille was a star through the exercise, and I learned quite a bit about riding the ground poles, keeping her steady and in a canter rhythm.

The afternoon lesson was out on the northeast cross-country field, and Reveille was, again, a star. I had no problems jumping her at all -- we did small logs, up and down a mound, and generally getting comfortable in the jumping field. The other two students in the cross-rails class had to repeat the jumps several times, but Rev and I did them right the first time, every time.

(Does anyone see where this is going yet?)

So I praised her a lot, told her what a good girl she was, and put her up for the evening after our two classes.

Wednesday had a few more problems. The weather had turned on us, from nice but windy to cold, windy, and rainy, and the night before there'd been thunder and lightning along with the rain. So I arrived to the barn Wednesday morning to discover that I had a LOT of horse. A. Lot. Not only that, but I also had a LOT of really quite pissy horse. Sigh! She was tired, she hates being out in cold rain, and she was not looking forward to more riding.

But I got her out in the field anyway, and we got started. Not long after the lesson started, TD asked the class to start jumping some logs we hadn't jumped the day before, in the southeast field. One of the logs I know we'd jumped once before, at the event derby clinic, so I figured we'd be okay. I managed to forget or just not do the thing I need to do most of all: ride every step. I just didn't do very well what we'd been practicing all along: keep a steady rhythm and keep the horse steady to the jump and after the jump. Her trot rhythm changed, she started to wobble on the approach, and I wasn't sitting right.

She ducked right really quickly, and I found myself falling. I didn't quite fall all the way, but enough that I couldn't recover my balance, so I kind of kicked out of the stirrups and threw myself out of the saddle. It wasn't so bad -- she'd mostly stopped by the time I fell, and I was able to pretty much control my landing so my event vest took most of the impact. My lower back and sacroiliac joints hurt, but not badly, and I could get on with it.

So we jumped the scary log three more times, and then proceeded. No further falls in the morning lesson -- even when we jumped up a bank and then down the bank for the very first time. I was kind of scared of the down-bank, but ... it came out okay. She did water just fine, too. We even jumped the scary log from the back side, where it's a bit charred and shiny and extra-scary. I rode the approach right, though, and she jumped it the first time. She jumped big and round, but she jumped it.

So then, in the afternoon lesson, we went into the center sand arena for showjumping practice. We'd never done a course as long as the one TD had us doing, and we'd never really done even a small course of cross-rails at the canter all the way through. Things were going just fine, once I remembered the course, and Reveille was being pretty good, if a bit cranky.

So ... somehow, toward the last quarter of the lesson, we were both getting tired. And on one three-jump line, I did the exact. same. thing. I'd done in the morning lesson to get myself dumped. I didn't sit quite right, I wasn't firm enough on the approach, my reins weren't evenly connected, and I let her bobble on the line coming into the jump. She jumped it way to the right, where it was much bigger than the center, and then as we landed, she veered hard right.

I had time to cuss loudly before I went sprawling in the sand. This time, it hurt. I fell in exactly the same way I'd fallen before -- right side first, but mostly on my back, avoiding hitting my head or my collarbones. It took me a minute to really assess my physical condition, make sure that nothing was hurt. I actually thought to myself "you better move, or they're going to think you're really hurt ..." ["they" being the assortment of young teenagers watching the lesson and TD] So I got up on hands and knees and rocked a little to stretch out my lower back, assured TD that I was okay and hadn't hit my head, and then moved to sit on the sand.

It was then that I really started cussing. ;) I was pissed at myself -- I knew what I'd done wrong. I knew what I needed to do to fix it. And yet, I didn't do the right thing. Grrrr! I'm a better rider than that! And dammit, that HURT. HURT, I tell you.

But -- of course, I got back into the saddle, and we jumped that line a few more times in the canter. I rode my best through it, and we had no further problems. We rode the entire course again, and again, no further problems.

I pretty much toughed it out, didn't let on too much how rattled I was -- this proved MT's statement that "falling doesn't do you any good, and it doesn't do [Reveille] any good." I kind of talked to another of the teachers/campers about it, and she assured me that we've ALL been there, and we ALL feel stupid when we fall. This helped a little.

I abandoned my plans to organize a group dinner and just picked up some nachos, made a quick visit to my chiropractor (which helped), picked up an inexpensive breastplate, and then went home to indulge in ice, ibuprofen, and horse liniment. :/

Thursday was the day when we'd put together everything we'd learned and jump a cross-country course all the way round, at our level.

I had SUCH a hard time getting out of bed that morning. My back hurt. Like, HURT. I had to tell myself that I knew it'd get better once I got moving, that I didn't want to look like a wuss in front of the entire camp, that all I had to do was ride that one course and I would be done, and that I didn't want to miss out on the last day. That I'd regret it forever if I called out hurt. And even after all that motivation, I had to pretty much sternly tell myself to cowboy up and just get out of bed!

When we walked the course, I got more and more nervous. I told TD that I needed her to talk me out of being scared -- she's not so good at the reassurance, but she did her best. My friend K did a little better at the reassurance when I rode up to the group she and TD were in and asked, "Tell me again why I shouldn't be scared?" Well, I found out the answer to that question after our course ride.

The warmup went well -- Rev was calm, not pissy, and jumping well. I was even jumping well with her, keeping firmly in mind my seat and leg and body position. Things were starting to calm down in my head. Still, when we got on course, I was tense enough at the first two jumps that she just trotted them, rather than jumping.

At jump 3, she spooked at a jump that'd been moved overnight -- and I just sat down on her and made a wall out of my right leg, right seatbone, and right hand, and we got right back on course. This is when I realized I could do it. We jumped around the northeast field, and then moved into the southeast field for the second part of the course. Which included the scary log she'd refused the day before. TD was standing in the field, helping me out with instructions, and I was only half listening -- the other half was just focusing on my ride. I'd calmed down and was just paying complete attention to what I needed to do.

So we approached the log, my seat and legs firmly on, my hands not hard but not allowing any deviation either, and I gave her a firm leg aid to keep going forward, dammit! And we jumped the log perfectly. TD said later that she saw Rev thinking about ducking out again, but that I'd ridden it correctly and given her no choice but to go over it -- and after that, Rev was much more committed to my ride and to jumping the rest of the course. Hallelujah!

The rest of the course went like clockwork, even the water, and I was so, so proud of myself for it. I was proud of Reveille, too, for working with me, but I was more proud of myself for just doing it in the first place, even though I was hurting and scared - and in the second place, for doing the course well and successfully. I are teh brave. :)

MT talked to me after the ride too, wanting to know how it went, and I was proud to say it'd gone awesomely. I explained where I was with it, and I explained what I'd realized as I put Rev up: the answer to "Why shouldn't I be scared?" is "Because even if you have a problem, you're going to ride through it." MT was pleased with me, and I was too. :)

I think I'll remember that answer now. Even though I have a problem, I can ride through it. And I did, and I did.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What I wish I'd done

I wish that, when I bought Reveille, I'd printed out a copy of her ad on equine.com, saved the receipts I got from the seller, and that kind of thing. :) I'm suddenly feeling like a scrapbook would have been a fun thing.

What I'm learning, and horse camp

Yknow what I think the biggest things I'm learning are?

The first and most important thing is to ride every step. Unless I'm really just sitting on her or walking around and having no plans, I can't just ... well, sit there. I can't just let her go without any involvement. Even when I'm not asking for anything, I need to pay attention to her energy, her tempo, the rein contact. And just generally be an active partner, rather than an occasional direction-giver. I think that, when I rode as a kid, I rode horses that didn't need to have every step ridden -- which is the right way to do it. I also didn't ride with teachers the quality of MT, either. And I didn't have actual plans and goals beyond the next show. This explains a lot of why it's so much harder as an adult!

The second thing I'm learning is that there is time. I don't need to fret about how long it's taking us to learn. I'm young; Reveille is young. Neither of us is a professional/highly-bred-for-this. It's okay, and we CAN do it.

The third thing I'm learning is that I'm not the only one with the problems I have. My horse is not the only horse with straightness problems. My horse is not the only horse that doesn't want to connect up on one rein. My horse is not the only horse that needs energy. And I'm not the only rider who gets out of breath when riding. I'm not the only rider who has trouble getting my butt in the right place in the saddle while jumping. And on and on.

I am learning these things and starting to know them -- I am still working on really internalizing them. Really making them part of my psychic landscape.

In other news -- I'm super excited for horse camp this week! Tomorrow through Thursday: two mounted lessons a day, one unmounted. SQUEE!

Friday, June 11, 2010

I know, I should post more.

I know, I know -- I don't write, don't send flowers, don't call ... it's true. I've been working a lot lately, and since my only Internet access is at work, I don't have a lot of time to write.

BUT. Things continue to happen! We've had a couple of good lessons since the last post, one involving just canter poles on the ground, with the idea of teaching me how better to ride lines and how better to adjust Rev's stride as much as I can. The other was more jumping, and I learned a lot about where I need to put my body and how best to ride a line and ride a rhythm. There's way more to learn, but for now, this is going well.

I also broke down and scheduled a visit to a new chiropractor, because my balance and seatbones were getting worse than usual. When I fell and shattered my collarbone two Februaries ago, I landed hard on my hip right after I landed on my shoulder, and that messed up my hip and sacroiliac joint pretty well. Combined with 13 years of slightly off-balance walking due to an ACL replacement in my knee that never quite healed perfectly, that has caused me some real problems. Chiropractic and massage therapy (not the happy spa massages, either; the sports therapy ones) are the only things that really help, because my bones are just out of order and my muscles turn into concrete.

I think that a few weeks/months of chiropractic should take care of the nastiness in my hips for another year or so, and I'm really looking forward to working with this one. I feel better already, after this morning's appointment, and I was stunned at the x-rays he took. I hadn't had my hips x-rayed after the fall, and holy crap if my right hip isn't about an inch higher than my left. My spine is curved to compensate. BUT -- the good news is that the doc and I think it'll be relatively easy to fix. Which means I'll be able to use my hips and seatbones again to help Rev be straight on a line!

Which brings me to the next topic -- the latest Test of Choice night. Here's a post I made on the A Fat Girl and a Fat Horse forums:

So my little mare and I are working on getting dressage tests that involve cantering up to a presentable state. It's a little tough, because we haven't been working the canter all that long, only since about February or so.

We have Test of Choice nights at our barn every month, when people can come out and work any one or two dressage tests they want in front of a judge. It's non-competitive, just a chance for people to work on tests, whether they're not ready for a "real" show yet, just want to perfect a test they plan to show later, or want to work on the level they're wanting to move up to. We're in all those categories, but mostly the last one. So far, all we've been doing was Training Level Test 1, the simplest of all the Training tests.

We did it once before, in early April, and we got a 56 -- not successful, in my opinion. Reveille was tense, I was tense, I missed a canter depart, I didn't get all the way to the letters, and my circles were more like modern art than circles. My teacher's daughter, a teacher and Rolex rider herself, judged that test.

My teacher judged this round of ToC tests, and of course he's familiar with the two of us. Still ... we got a 63%!!! SIXTY THREE! On Training 1! That is my definition of a successful score -- 60% or above. :) Not necessarily a successful test in itself, but I'm pleased with the score.

Granted, Rev was counterflexed on the rail throughout the entire test, and we had a nasty loss of balance in the last turn to go up the centerline, but overall, it was a reasonable test.

Me being me, I suspect my teacher was a little too kind on my marks and that I didn't really deserve a 63, but ... I have some things to work on, and even I can say we improved from the last time we rode this test! Even if I suspect we'd have either been excused from the arena by a snickering line judge at a real dressage show or just given 3s and 4s. ;)

Well, okay, not 3s and 4s, but 5s and 6s, with one 7 for our free walk, which we've turned out to be good at.

Still, success! :D

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fear? WTF?

So I like hockey. In hockey, if a team gets their opponent's goalie rattled, people say that the other team got in the goalie's head. If the goalie has to be pulled and the backup goalie put in because the main goalie's giving up too many goals, they call that chasing the goalie, or just "chasing him."

On Saturday, Rev got in my head, and then she chased me.

I have no idea what she was all up about, but she decided that the dogs sleeping outside the arena door made that corner super-scary. She would spook a little, not go into the corner, get all tight, et cetera. MT wanted to have me work on a canter exercise over a crossrail, but I was having problems in the trot, much less a canter. Rev getting all spooky and "up" got me good and scared. I have no idea why -- but for some reason, I get scared when she spooks or threatens to. It doesn't make much sense, because every time but one that she's spooked, I've just gone with it. I fell once, right when I was getting back on track this winter, but every other time, I've stayed on and then gone on doing what we were doing to begin with. Why I should have been so scared this weekend, I have no idea.

So when MT asked me to pick up the canter and try the exercise in the canter, I had to say something. I felt like I was riding a spring that was getting more and more tightly wound -- and I was scared of what would happen when that potential energy became kinetic energy. And I was afraid that picking up the canter would trigger that explosion. So I just came out and said it: "Reveille's spooking at that corner, and I ... I'm afraid." MT said he was glad I'd told him, then told me to start circling in that corner, trying to school her out of her spookiness.

But -- she'd gotten to me by then. I ended up asking MT if he'd be willing to get on her and help me, because I didn't know what I needed or how to get there or anything. He did, and he schooled her hard. Much more aggressively than I could have, in the mindset I was in. Basically, she chased me like a goalie. Put the backup goalie in, I'm rattled. I was simultaneously incredibly grateful to MT for getting on her and terribly ashamed that I'd had to ask.

But in the end, after Rev jumped really well for him, MT told me that he'd much rather I tell him when I get scared like that than not say anything, get scareder and scareder, and then eventually fall off. Me falling doesn't help me at all, and it doesn't help Rev either. So -- if I get to the point where I'm completely ineffective because of fear, I should say something. I'm glad I did, but it was still not a good feeling.

Of course, I then had a cold knot of fear in my stomach for the rest of the day. I felt like I had to do SOMETHING to create order, to kind of discharge my neurosis of wanting to Do It Right, so I bought a plastic drawer unit and reorganized my tack locker. ;) I felt a lot better after doing something productive and successful.

So when I went back to ride on Sunday, I set up ground poles in a line similar to the exercise MT had asked me to do -- no jumping outside of lessons, otherwise I'd have worked the exact same exercise. Then I longed Rev in the scary corner until I was satisfied that she wouldn't be a nincompoop and until I felt confident in her. When I mounted up, we worked in that end of the arena until I felt confident in myself. Then we moved out to work in the whole arena, then worked the ground pole exercise I'd set up, both at the trot and at the canter. Focusing hard on my three-point seat and riding the rhythm I wanted, working hard at getting a steady rhythm into, during, and out of the poles.

And yknow ... everything went just fine. Nobody freaked out. The canter poles went brilliantly -- I sat my butt in the saddle, rode my rhythm and my line, and everything happened in stride.

Take THAT, little fear demon. I got this. :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

The promised pictures!

Pictures from last Sunday's Event Derby!



In the warmup arena. Good trot!



Circling the arena before entering at A. I love this trot and this expression on her face!



About to enter at A, at a nice energetic trot. Energy was the main thing I wanted out of this test, since it's been something we've been working on for a while -- energy and a good trot. I think I got it quite well.



Hey! Wake up, horse! We have a dressage test to ride here! :D




Good stretchy walk! She's stretching down well, and she's just shy of overtracking in the walk. We got a 7 on this movement -- it's even a coefficient movement!



Finished with dressage -- me: "Come on, smile for the camera!" Her: "Can we just go in and have carrots now?"



I love the alertness in this photo -- she wasn't entirely sure about the crowd on the course here, but we did fine with it. This was, I think, our first round, ground poles.



Again with the alertness. Her face sharpens up so much when she's alert -- she loses some of the Quarter Horse blockiness and picks up the warmblood refinement.



Another shot I just love of Rev's attitude. I love her neck in this one, too -- the work we've been doing on the longe line in side reins really shows. Even though it's just a ground pole, she gives it her attention.



Jump! Such a pretty little horse. :)


I'll get a picture of my ribbon collection tonight. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Briefly:

Well, work has been really busy, so it seems like I'm only getting to update every week or so. My abject apologies!

I do have a fun post planned about the Event Derby last weekend -- we entered our first jumping class, cross-rails, and we did great! I was so proud of my little horse. :) We have some things to work on, dressage-wise, and of course with the jumping, but I was still proud of her.

In the meantime, here's a very brief and small preview of the photos I'll be posting soon:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Long, but exciting! *

I am just unspeakably excited. :) Rev and I had two good lessons this weekend -- one good because we did well, one good because we learned something new and fun and did okay at it!

Saturday's flat lesson was really, really awesome. Finally, for once, we did as well in lessons with MT as we can do in practice! I was able to get her moving forward, and then push even a little more forward from there at MT's instruction. I was riding well, and my rein contact was good, and overall, it was an awesome ride. I was so pleased with her and myself. :) MT said it was the best he's seen me ride, which I could feel for myself too, so I couldn't do any of that self-deprecating stuff. If I can ride that well and if Rev can go that well in the Derby on Sunday, I can win the class. :) These things are won and lost in dressage, at low levels. Sometimes high levels, too.

After the lesson, I mentioned to MT that I'd signed up for the crossrails class in next weekend's Derby and asked if that was okay with him. He asked if I'd trotted Rev over any crossrails yet, and I said, "Well, no. The rule is 'no jumping outside of lessons,' so I followed the rule." I wondered if the rule had changed or if I was supposed to assume it didn't apply to me -- that sort of thing had been known to get me in trouble as a kid, so I don't do it any more. :) If there's a rule, I assume it means me. Anyway, MT said, "Oh. Right, you're right. Good answer -- I didn't realize that was a trick question! Well, let's pop her over a crossrail. What are you doing tomorrow?"

So it was set -- jumping lesson for Sunday morning, woot! I resolved to not be nervous, because, well, I wasn't. Somehow the prospect of jumping Rev didn't and doesn't scare me at all. It might oughta, but ... it doesn't.

On Saturday, though, we'd put another horse in Rev's pasture, another mare. I was not in any way expecting Rev to act the way she did on Sunday morning -- usually, when she's been in with other horses, she left them with no problem. In her TN home, she lived with a mare and filly, and it was never a problem to take her out of the pasture away from the others. But Saturday morning, you'd have thought I'd taken her away from her mother! She cried and hollered and danced around, all antsy because she'd left the other mare. 0.o I mean, I know this happens to other horses, but it's the first time it's ever happened with Rev. So after she squirreled around in the crossties, I ended up just throwing her on the longe line in her halter, just to get her attention. Run around for a few minutes, then start lots of quick transitions. Get a handle on her brain.

That worked, so I got her tacked up. Bridling her turned out to be a PITA, but I prevailed. And back on the longe line she went, all tacked up. I finally got most of her brain engaged, and got mounted up.

MT started us with some basic flatwork, which was nowhere near as good as it had been the day before. But I prevailed, mostly. Enough to move on to working the two-point.

Two things: One, if there were ever an argument for losing weight, two-point is it. I shouldn't have to support so much damn weight, and neither should Rev.

Two, MT teaches a very different style/approach than I learned as a kid and used as a teenager. He teaches eventing, and I learned hunt seat equitation. Apples and oranges. Not quite apples and moon rocks, but different nonetheless. In hunt seat equitation, my feet were much farther back than MT was having me put them. It's much more about angles, the way MT teaches it, than it ever was before. And every time we jumped, he'd talk about the foot/leg position and how much more secure it was on the back side of the jump.

One thing I did find a use for that I'd learned from Stormy, the sainted Hackney-Arab jumper I rode for several years, was the use of the three-point seat when approaching fences. I had to use it to slow Stormy down, but with Rev, I kind of instinctively used it on our last jump of the lesson, because I needed to ride her forward.

I don't think I consciously thought about three-point, just that she didn't have enough forward to be able to jump well, even over a small crossrail. So I rode her forward. And I'm damned if that wasn't our best effort of the day. MT said she gave me a good, cute jump, and it was the only one where I landed with her, and we cantered off calmly, rather than a step of canter and then trot. Every other time, I'd been a little rigid on the landing and not moving with her.

So overall, I learned a lot -- my takeaways from this are "practice two-point in the trot and canter" and "practice trot tempo and canter transitions in your jumping saddle." I can do that. :)

But most of all? I had a great time. :) I totally want to go do more! *dances happily* Honestly, I've been waiting for this since the day I bought Reveille. I had a strong hunch that she'd be a good jumper, and MT agrees with me that she will. She seemed to really enjoy it, too! She didn't quail, even a little bit. And neither did I. *beam* There was no hesitation (at least, none that wasn't caused by me not getting her forward enough on the approach to the jump). MT said that going in the crossrails class is definitely doable, and we'll have a clinic with him on Saturday, too.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful thing. *SQUEEEEEEEEE!*


* Obligatory: That's what SHE said!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Much better.

I feel muuuuch better after getting out to the barn and working with Rev. Seriously, for all that she can be difficult sometimes, Reveille really grounds me and makes everything else in my life worth it.

After I put her back in her pasture and turned around to walk away, I could just feel her watching me walk away, feel her thinking 'but wait! we're not done yet!'. So I turned around, and indeed she was standing there, ears all the way forward, neck over the fence. How could I resist? So I spent another 20 minutes or so, just scratching on her and petting her. She loves being scratched under the jaw, especially in shedding season, so she got a good skritching. She's not really a very cuddly horse very often, so it's nice when she's in the mood to be loved on. Her "ooooh yes scratch there" face cracks me up so hard! Not to put too fine a point on it, she doesn't have a particularly dainty or fine-boned head. The thing has its own satellites. :) (Too much brain to jam into a small head, I guess.) So when she does the nose/lip thing and stretches her head out straight, her neck pretty much doubles in length. Heh! Too funny.

Anyway, was good to work her a little and just be at the barn. I talked to TW for a while, too, which was nice -- got caught up on some Rolex talk, talk about clinicians coming to town and whether I'd get anything out of their clinics, and talking about my girl dog, who's been sick. Just nice to touch base, get caught up. Kind of bring some normalcy back to life, if that makes any sense.

Anyway. Test of Choice night for May has been cancelled due to weather -- totally understandable, given the crap we've had falling from the sky lately! I'll have T1 spruced up and improved for the next ToC, and I'll probably run Intro B as well. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm dead bored with Intro! When I started, I never in a million years thought I'd get to a point where I could present a canter test. I mean, I knew it was the idea and the goal, but ... it seemed impossible. Now I'm thinking I will get T1 above 60 this year, and possibly even ride T2 a time or two. Possibly. Things are progressing!

Looking forward to riding tonight and this weekend. :) I'm feeling pretty sanguine about this whole endeavor today.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Updating! (edited to explain blog title)

So it's probably going to be exceedingly windy tonight, gusting up to 40-45 miles an hour. It's likely that the Test of Choice night is going to be cancelled or rescheduled -- which is both good and bad for me. Good, because I could, in theory, get Training 1 and Intro A ready to go again for the reschedule date. In theory. Bad, because I learn so much from scribing. I learn what judges look for, both good and bad, and it makes it much easier to turn in better tests when I ride.

So we'll see. No matter what, I'll be at the barn tonight and ride. I can't not, yknow?

Blog title: After my boyfriend mentioned the concept of nana korobi, yo oki to me, I knew I had found the right title for my blog, if not my entire life. The phrase translates from the Japanese as "Seven times fall, eight rise." It's both inspirational -- keep going, until you've gotten up one more time than you've fallen -- and an excellent description of my riding life. A ride didn't work right today? Try again tomorrow. Failed at doing something? Try again tomorrow. Fell off? Get back on. Just. Keep. Trying. Which has been, so far, the story of me and Rev. I've stuck with her when most people wouldn't. Some days, that's less about my perseverance and more about my inability to sell her, but more days than most - and especially lately - it's just me deciding to be patient and hang in there. Nana korobi, yo oki.

In other news, last week I'd ordered the royal blue galloping boots and the royal blue saddlepad I've been coveting from Dover. I got the shipping notice yesterday. I also got, in my snail mail, a Dover catalog with sale prices on a lot of things -- including the saddlepad I ordered. It'd gone down from $17.90 to $9.99. Thinking that I had nothing to lose by calling, I called Dover's customer service line and asked the nice representative if they might be able to refund me the difference. The representative said she'd be happy to do it. :)

Thank you, Dover! This is one of the reasons I like Dover Saddlery -- in addition to nice customer service, they often have excellent prices on accessories like this, and they have a great selection. (I have to note that I found a better price on my Mountain Horse High Rider II boots from a different site, but for things like horse boots and saddlepads, I always go with Dover.)

In other, OTHER news, I wholeheartedly recommend APF Pro, from Auburn Labs. Good for horses, dogs, and people. Reveille doesn't need it, but the high-level horses at the barn take it, and I take it. :) Good stuff.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled life -- and me back to mine.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ack!

Ack! I haven't had time to blog lately! I'll give a quick update, and then I promise a much longer entry tomorrow or Thursday.

* This blog will be renamed shortly. :)

* I've figured out exactly what MT means when he says that Rev responds best to canter aids given almost entirely with the inside seatbone.

* I'm skipping tomorrow's Test of Choice night; I'd been sick Monday and Tuesday of last week, so I had to work late Wednesday through Friday, then work on Saturday and Sunday to make up for the time I missed. So there's no chance of turning in a reasonable test, even if there weren't going to be huge winds and cold tomorrow.

* Nonetheless, the practices I'd had while MT, TW, and TD were in Kentucky at Rolex were great. I feel like I learned a lot while they were gone.

* Entered the Event Derby ... at the cross-rail level. Hopefully I can go through with this plan. :)

* I miss my horse. Can't wait until tomorrow, when I'll get to scribe the ToC night, and then ride afterward. :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pictures of the ToC night

A few pictures of the ToC night. Quite a few of them were terrible -- me in bad positions, etc. Things to work on, really.



At X, halt, salute.



Good luck charm!



Circle left 20 meters. (Not so submissive, but otherwise okay)



Smile on a long rein

Cute portrait of Reveille



Cute portrait of both of us (ugh, diet!)



Friday, April 9, 2010

After looking at the pictures we got of the tests, I have a few additional thoughts:

OMG I need to lose weight. Like, now. Like, lots.

What the hell is my butt doing so far out of the saddle, and why am I clinging with my heel? There's a spur on that heel, idiot, stop that.

My horse is awfully cute. I can be.

Perfectly satisfactory.

Well. The Test of Choice night went quite well, all things considered. We definitely had some bobbles, and her Submission scores were a deserved 4 on both tests, but we also got lots of 7s and good comments. Helpful comments. I was particularly pleased with the "balanced transition" comments I got through both tests, the 7 on our free walk in Intro A, and the "Well ridden, good patience!" comment on Rider Position and Aids.

We have several things to work on, like her not being so tense, better entry at A, and better use of the arena, but overall -- I'm quite pleased with the outcome of our first tests of the year, first canter departs outside, et cetera.

And there will be pictures. :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That's a relief.

Well, since the ToC night has moved to Friday, and since we had a really good ride tonight, I think we have a reasonable chance of scoring above 50 on Training 1. ;) I'm deliberately deflating my expectations, of course, but I was quite happy with our ride. We even had more than one right-rein circle with actual right bend! *gasp* I was pleased with her forward, and I ended up getting canter transitions when I wanted them. I also played a little with lengthening and shortening in the canter, which worked. I didn't ride for long -- MT would certainly have made us work much much harder -- but I was still quite pleased. Whew!

Another small thought

I hear so often about people who are driven -- people who, when things don't go well or when they fail at something, they just get back up and try again and again until they succeed and excel.

I'd never really felt that about anything until I started really working with Reveille. Now, like in Saturday's lesson, when things don't go well, I want to try again. Go and go and go until I get it right.

This is a strange, but good, feeling.

Faith restored, I think.

So. We had a lesson on Saturday, and I can't even begin to express how glad I was for it. I didn't ride well, but I learned a lot -- and I have some new things to work on that will help me a lot. I was incredibly grateful for MT's help, not only in riding Rev, but for all the various corrections he gave me. At one point in the lesson, I was really having a crisis of confidence -- this seems to happen to me a lot -- but he pretty much ignored my comment to that effect and we carried on. :) Exactly the best response.

One of the corrections he offered was about leg position and how I was using my spur. I'd been borrowing the working student's spurs, which are about 3/8 of an inch long, maybe 1/2 inch, and I wasn't at all feeling like I was getting any effect from them while I rode. So I ended up with too much work with my leg again, and too much use of not enough spur. I really needed the reminder, and I was immensely grateful for the loan of his own spurs last night. (My boyfriend has said he'd get me my own pair of 1" spurs for Easter -- what a keeper! :) We tried to pick some up last night, but no dice at the FLTS.)

And the other thing he was working on and coaching me through was lengthening and shortening within a gait -- he worked trot and canter, I worked just trot. I didn't do so well, but I get the premise, and I know what it ought to be like/what it's for/why I ought to do it, so I can practice on my own. We worked over some trot poles that were just a tad long for her, to get her to really stretch, and of course shortening and lengthening are important for that.

So last night when I rode, I worked a lot on shortening and lengthening. I was 100% better than I was in the lesson, but I would say it was about 35-40% of where I need to be. I even worked on shortening the canter a bit, and it went reasonably well. I wasn't really focusing on the canter, but at least I did a little. I was much happier with last night's ride than I was with last week's rides, so ... I think I am past the mini-crisis.

Plus, the Test of Choice night has been moved to Friday, so I feel like I've gotten a reprieve, time to keep practicing and recover any ground I'd lost last week. Whew! Now if I can just find a caller for Training 1 ... :)

ALSO -- my new helmet cover came in! Squee! It's bright blue and white and altogether adorable. I can't wait to use it. I'll have pictures soon, I'm sure, since my boyfriend is a wonderful photographer. (I might also have pictures of last night's ride, too, depending on how they came out. Happy!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Playing catchup again.

I think my life's calmed down enough now that I can focus on more than one thing at a time. Annie the dog is still not well, but we're closer than we were, and I'm no longer so stressed I don't know what day it is or what I'm doing. I think I can pick this blogging thing back up now.

So.

Next Wednesday, I'm entered in a little, friendly, casual Test of Choice night. Basically, you pay $10 to ride a dressage test for a judge, just to kind of get a gauge on how you're doing, practice a test that isn't ready for prime-time, practice a test you'll have to perform for real in the near future, work the kinks out of a test, yknow ... whatever. No pressure, no ribbons, no competition. This is really nice, because it forces riders (me) to get out and DO something. Just ... try it.

This time, I'm riding Intro A -- again -- and I've gone ahead and decided to take the step to the next level and try Training 1. This is the perfect forum for me to do that, and up until yesterday's ride, I was pretty damn sure it would go okay.

I have to confess: last week, I didn't ride during the week at all. :/ What with Annie's vet appointments in the middle of the day, I ended up having to work late every day, and when I did get home, I was absolutely wrecked. Stress, lack of sleep, nausea due to stress ... the whole nine yards. I rode on the weekend days, and Reveille was fine. Good, even. I felt like we could go ahead and make that jump to prime-time canter transitions, even if they weren't perfect.

Tuesday, I longed her for about an hour. I'd intended to ride, but when we were working on the line in the side reins, she just seemed to need some intensive work. So that's what we did. We worked on energetic trot, bending to the inside, working over her back, prompt transitions, and generally worked quite intensely. I let her rest on Wednesday, seeing as I had to work late anyway, and then went to ride yesterday.

Dude.

That was the worst ride I've had in ... weeks? Months? She. Was. TERRIBLE. Flailing her head, fishtailing around, not moving forward, counterbending ... gah. All the things we've been working on and had made so much progress on ... gone.

At one point, I actually got off, put her back on the longe line, and basically pressed the GO button. When I got back on, she was better, but she didn't make it out of the TERRIBLE zone until the end of the ride, when I finally got her moving forward into a good trot and a little bit of canter. I decided I wouldn't be picky about the bend or the head position, as long as she went forward. UGH. I really hope that tonight's ride is significantly better.

Some things I'm going to change are:

* Stretch carefully before I get on. I think I was stiff and tense, and that doesn't make for a good ride.
* Just hop on her, without longing her, tonight. She got enough work last night that I won't be in any danger, and I think getting on without longing sometimes helps a lot.
* Use MT's spurs, as he'd offered to let me do, instead of the working student's pair. His are a bit longer than her Tom Thumb set, and I think that helps.
* Focus hard on a soft, elastic contact.
* Comfortable, relaxed warmup, more than usual -- as much for me as for her.

I think that should help me AND her. I suspect my balance was way off, my weight aids were scrambled ... et cetera. I "talked" to Rev about the ride, apologized for my being all screwy, and asked her to please work with me instead of against me, because it'll be better for both of us. :) Here's hoping she learned the power of human speech overnight. *grin*

I think having her in half training was incredibly beneficial, and I'd like to start it up again in May. (April's out, due to Rolex and the need to be gone for something like two weeks or more) While MT and family are gone, though, I have absolutely got to ride her at least four or five days a week if I want her to progress.

I really want to get to jumping soonSoonSOON ... I don't want to miss out on this first Derby. I'm so. freaking. tired. of doing the ground poles class -- even though we will, if we need to, because the show experience is good for her and me. So I have to keep her together and get myself going. I probably ought to ask MT what exactly I need to do to be ready to start jumping, in his opinion. I'm a little nervous that the answer will be "consistency." Not only the hobgoblin of small minds -- it's the hobgoblin of little bay mare and little chubby girl pairs, too.

We'll see. Meanwhile, excelsior.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stress, but success anyway.

So -- to catch up, now that I have some downtime at work and a powerful need to unburden myself of some words ...

First, spurs are an amazing, magical invention. On Friday of last week, we had a really great school with the canter departs and even cantering over poles. I'm not sure what was so different, but it was a great ride. I didn't have to work hard at getting what I wanted, once we got going. (It's usually a challenge to get that first canter transition, and then we're off and running, as it were.)

When we were done, I went ahead and took her outside to just kind of wander around and enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately, this plan was scuttled by frisky tobiano horses of a couple of different breeds out in the pasture. :) She spooked once; all was well. She spooked twice, and I decided that this was only going to escalate, so I hopped off and led her through a series of ground poles several times so that she didn't get to quit by spooking, even though I didn't feel like staying in the saddle was going to be productive for me.

So Friday was awesome. Of course, on Saturday morning in my lesson, I couldn't reproduce the results. :/ Trot was ... okay, not great. I had trouble and trouble and trouble getting the canter depart, and I had trouble keeping her in the canter, and just ... trouble.

About 10 minutes into the lesson, MT pointed out that my stick just isn't really useful any more for me, and then he went ahead and had me drop it.

About 12 minutes into the lesson, MT said, rather pensively, "yknow, I think a little spur might help you a little bit -- get her going without you having to work so hard."

About 20 minutes into the lesson, I got the dreaded "Okay, stop. Just stop. Come to a halt," complete with hand-waving gesture. *laugh* (Okay, it's not dreaded, but it's one of those things when you just know you're Not Getting It. :) The quasi-working-student, as opposed to the actual working student, had a laugh over lunch about this phenomenon and the inevitable mental "ah, dammit" we get when we hear it) He unbuckled the spurs from his feet and stuck them on my feet, then told me to just find her sides with the spur. Not use them, just ... find her with them. Let her know they're there without any pressure.

And then we walked on.

Holy crap, the difference!!

I didn't really have to even use the spurs. Just a normal leg aid, and we were trotting in a nice working trot. Normal seat and leg aid, and we were cantering without any indication that she was going to fall out of it. Over the poles in a canter, and no problems. Suddenly I didn't have to work so hard with my leg aid to get a reaction -- I could just work on my seat and my balance, without worrying about the forward as much or as hard. Downward to trot, through a second set of poles through X via B and E, back upward to canter, back over the canter poles on the long side, back to trot, change direction ... hey, it WORKED! Awesome. :)

So she's had Sunday and yesterday off, and we're back to it today -- I'm looking forward to riding, a lot.

Of course ... now that I feel like we're actually getting somewhere, I got a call last night from someone who's really interested in coming to look at Reveille and maybe buy her.

If this person had called two months ago, I'd have been much more inclined to be excited about it. Hell, if she'd called one month ago I would have been interested.

But now ... I don't think I want to sell her. Especially given what's going on with my poor little dog -- it feels like the universe is threatening to take my dog, and now my horse. Annie the dog will be okay, but the surgery is going to be very expensive. I could certainly use the money I would get from selling Rev for that and for a couple other things -- I can't deny that selling her would make financial sense.

But there's so much more than finances involved in having a horse. There's my heart involved too. I've given this horse three years, which is way more than a lot of other people would have given her when her bucking was a problem. I have sunk so much time and money and love and patience and stress and thought into her ... am I really willing to give all that up? Am I really willing to let this horse, this little bay individual with whom I've been building a bond, especially lately, just go off to someone else? Before we ever achieve anything I was hoping for? I didn't buy her to sell her. I bought her to keep, and to compete, and to just share life with. I'd thought I should sell her because I didn't have the confidence that I could ride her, develop her, et cetera, the way she needed.

And now, I think I can do all those things, with MT's help.

What do I do?

I think the answer is "not worry for now." The woman interested in her might not ever call me back. She might not really be interested; she might find another horse closer to her; she might not have the money ... etc. So I should stop worrying and keep riding and appreciating my horse for now.

Right? Worry about what needs worried about -- Annie, the other bills, work -- and not what isn't here yet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good and bad

The good news: We practiced canter departs almost exclusively last night, and they went quite well. We're just about there, just need more practice at getting the transitions smooth and balanced now that I can get them.

The bad news: My little girl corgi is very, very sick -- looks like her liver is failing. So off I go to the vet tonight and tomorrow morning to take care of that. I'm pretty worried. So -- no riding or gaming tonight. Just vet.

More later.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just keep swimming

Productive weekend, I think. Sunday's lesson was about tempo, using my spine as an aid, canter departs, moral authority, and not always practicing in the same way. This was the first time MT had talked about the idea of using the spine as an aid -- he also called it putting his back on the horse. I don't know that I'm entirely clear on it, but I was able to get results when I used it: I sat up straight and sat or posted right smack in the middle of the saddle, and Rev's gaits got clearer, better, and more forward. MT also talked about how, when I unknowingly start leaning forward, my seat and weight aids get muddled, so Rev just starts ignoring them. So I'll be working with that idea this week, as well as clear and short leg aids and canter departs.

By the end of the lesson, I was able to get pretty prompt canter departs -- after I'd invoked the moral authority of my stick behind my leg. Heh. Plus, I was able to recreate the effective aid I'd figured out on Friday by myself. It took me a while, and I had to remember the trot I had on Friday, but we got there.

Odd note: MT was waiting patiently while I was flailing around and not getting any success, and after several flaily circles, he asked me "So, what are you actually doing to get the canter?" Something about the pause to switch my brain from physical to verbal, and then trying to verbalize what I was doing, fixed my problem. As I started to narrate my aid as I gave it -- "First I move my outside leg back," -- I got the canter depart. Just odd. I think my words didn't move as fast as my brain did in analyzing what I needed to do and then doing it, because I know for dang sure that not only did I put my outside leg back, but then I sat on my inside seatbone and cued with my outside leg and then my inside leg while I scooped my inside seatbone forward. Strange experience, and it makes me think about how my brain and body work together ... makes me wonder how I can harness that. As it were.

On Saturday, it was so unbelievably windy at the barn! I commented to TW and a couple of other people as we watched a lesson that I thought we might all wake up in Oz, the wind was blowing that hard. It was windy enough that MT came over to mention to me that I should probably avoid the A end of the barn, since the wind stripping sometimes comes loose, and the wind was worst on that end. He gave me a fairly strong caution -- which prompted me to wonder if maybe I ought to just longe Rev and wait to ride until the next day. MT said that was his plan for his own horses, so ... yknow, I'll follow his wisdom!

Rev also got introduced to the P3 machine on Saturday.

She was ... not impressed. I think "freaked out" isn't a bad description for it. She didn't mind it over her shoulder and neck, but when MT got to her back and hip area, she was definitely weirded out. She would jump forward or sideways when one of her larger muscle groups would twitch, with the expression of "OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?!" on her face. Total non-comprehension. Fair enough, I suppose -- horses who haven't had the P3 used on them can't possibly have a frame of reference for electrical charges making their muscles twitch involuntarily!

I hope she gets to like it as much as one of the other barn horses, who practically drools when he gets P3-ed. MT saw a difference in her when he rode her on Sunday; whether it was the P3 or the fact that he hopped on without longing or something else entirely, it was a good difference.

Looking forward to riding this evening after Spanish tutoring; it's gorgeous out, and I want to work more and longer, without giving in to the "aw, okay, good enough" monster! My weekly schedule is going to be clearing up next week or the week after, which will be nice. The standing Tuesday evening thing is falling apart, so that opens Tuesday nights up. Depending on how froggy* I feel during the week, I'll try to ride Mondays as well, and keep up my existing schedule ... which will be a good thing. That plus half-training ought to keep Rev pretty busy. :)



* Meaning energetic and enthusiastic. I have no idea where this term came from, but I use it. I'm not always feeling froggy; annoyingly enough, my immune system is pretty weak, and I end up wearing myself out and getting sick or whatnot pretty easily. TW actually "sentenced" me to early bedtimes yesterday, when I couldn't stop coughing after my lesson ... and she's a wise lady. Sleep, vitamins, APF, and not trying to do it all, that's my sentence.


Friday, March 12, 2010

In other news: a poll!

Now that I've gotten my helmet manifesto out of the way ... on to fun stuff. :)

So I went ahead and ordered the custom helmet cover for my skully. I know, I know -- I shouldn't be all involved in the shallow stuff about eventing; it makes me a silly person; I should be concerned only about the riding and the horse; et cetera. I know all this. And I do work really hard at riding and at working with my horse.

But ... picking colors and helmet covers and saddlepads and splint boots and polos is SO MUCH FUN. :) It's not work. I guess I didn't really get enough time dressing up dollies and Barbies as a kid, because I'm having so much fun with dressing myself and my horse now.

What I've ordered is this: Chevron cover, in royal blue with white chevrons and a white button, royal blue ribbon.

I have a royal blue square AP pad that I've had forever -- why I didn't realize that I don't know. It's clean and shiny now, so I'll use that.

I definitely want a pair of royal blue splint boots, too. Those are cheap and easy, so I don't need to grab them until closer to show time.

The really fun thing now is shirts for me. :) And here's the poll, too. So. I am thinking about two different styles:

1. White polo with royal blue chevrons on the left sleeve (I'll be buying the polo and then applique-ing the chevrons)
2. Royal blue polo with white chevrons on the left sleeve

I'm leaning toward option 1, just so that I won't be the rider who got dumped in a bucket of blue paint, but still be in the blue-and-white-chevrons theme. What do you all think?


Anyway, looking forward to riding tonight. Starting to think seriously about how I can get a Schleese or a County dressage saddle for a good price. I think it starts with "list my Courbette and see how much I can get for it."

My two bucks on the Great Helmet Debate

First off, my thoughts and prayers are with Courtney King-Dye and her family -- may she make a quick and complete recovery.

Second, I haven't wanted to weigh in "officially" on this debate, just because ... well, for me, there isn't a debate. I recognize that there is one in the greater horse world, though -- or at least there are a variety of choices made by a variety of people out there.

I learned to ride at lesson-type barns, first in Texas at a hunter-jumper barn, then in California at a pony farm and Pony Club, then on and on from there. In every situation I ever rode in, helmets were mandatory, especially for people under 18. So I can't really remember ever riding without a helmet. I've never seen a picture of myself on a horse without a helmet, either. So my background is different from some people's -- I know there are people out there who didn't grow up wearing a helmet. Also, my discipline (if I can call it that at my level) is three-day-eventing, which is big-Big-BIG on safety gear. So that's my background.

When I bought Reveille, one of the first things I did, even before she'd been delivered to me, was go out and buy a new helmet. I figured that I was buying a two-year-old and that there were inevitably going to be some falls, so I should probably be absolutely sure that my helmet was up to taking those falls.

And boy ... did I ever take those falls. Two in particular actually tested my helmet. One wasn't terrible, but I did crack the brim of the Tipperary helmet I had bought when I got Rev. (And my left pinky finger, but that wasn't under my helmet.) I should have replaced it then, but I didn't. Shame on me.

The second fall was much more destructive. The reason I bring it up is because as I was hanging out with the barn folks -- TW, TD, the working student, and the vet -- the subject of this fall came up. I told TD to tell the story, laughing that I wasn't really there and that the working student would get a better idea of it from TD's perspective.

What I didn't count on is how different TD's version of the story is than MINE. I knew I'd hit my head pretty hard when I fell, but I didn't realize exactly how hard I'd hit it.

In my version of the accident, everyone had just left the arena, I got bucked off, I hit my shoulder first (shattering my collarbone), hit my head hard, and then hit my hip hard. I lay for a second or two to sort of take stock of what had happened, managed to get up via my uninjured left side (still alone), Reveille followed me out of the arena, I saw C and told him to get TD, told him I thought I'd broken my collarbone, and then I went into the tack room/office, TD met me there, and the rest is pretty clear.

In TD's version of the accident, everyone had just left the arena, I got bucked off, I hit my shoulder first (shattering my collarbone), hit my head hard, and then hit my hip hard. TD had just finished lunch and was getting up to come back down the steps to the barn. N passed by and saw me laying on the ground, not moving, and she ran to get TD. TD, TW, and N came down, TD came into the arena as I was kind of coming to, asked me if I could get up. I managed to get up using my uninjured side and the wall, C came in and took Rev, we walked toward the tack room/office, and from there the stories match again. I suspect TD's is the correct version of the story.

Seriously, folks, this is weirding me out. A lot. All I can think about it from this vantage point is this:

THANK GOD I WAS WEARING MY HELMET.

I suspect that if I hadn't been wearing it, I suspect that the six weeks of recovery I had from the collarbone repair surgery would have been chump change. I suspect I'd have had a serious head injury.

That, plus the fact that it's a habit by now, just like wearing a seat belt in a car, is why I wear a helmet. That's why I think everyone should wear helmets, every time they get on a horse, regardless of their experience or expertise level.

However. I won't try to force my choice on any other adults. MT and TD don't wear helmets much, I think because they are usually confident in the horses they ride and because they find helmets uncomfortable. Fair enough -- they're both adults, they're professionals, and they know the risks. And TD does usually wear a helmet when she's jumping anyone but her own horses. MT wears a helmet when he's on a particularly crazy horse -- an Irish Sport Horse he had in last summer/fall comes immediately to mind; that horse could launch MT like a rock out of a trebuchet. ANYway ... as I said. They're adults and they're professionals.

I'd still be utterly devastated if either of them had any kind of head injury. They're each one-third of the support of the entire barn ... if you've ever seen a tripod or a three-legged stool with a short leg or a leg missing, you know what happens. Everything falls over.

I'd be horrified as well as devastated if it were my horse that caused the fall that led to the injury. Mortified. I do wish MT would wear a helmet when he rides Rev. Even though she doesn't really buck under saddle any more and hasn't in a long time, she's a horse. Things happen with horses.

At any rate ... my general rules are these:

* I wear a helmet at all times when riding. I've occasionally forgotten or registered my ballcap as something on my head - ergo helmet is already on, but when I realize I forgot, I get off immediately and put my helmet on.

* None of my peers (i.e., no one but MT or TD) are allowed to even sit on my horse without a helmet on.

* If I see a minor riding without a helmet, I'll ask them to put a helmet on or dismount. If the minor won't do it, I'll find someone in charge and see if I can press the issue. If the minor's parent or teacher doesn't care enough to make their kid/student wear a helmet ... well, I've done all I can. Tragedy lurks.

* I'll encourage any peers I ride with to wear a helmet when riding.

* But -- I won't be a helmet nazi. If an adult chooses to not wear a helmet or to not require their kid to wear a helmet, that's their choice ... even if I think it's a stupid one.

What I don't get is WHY anyone wouldn't choose to use all the protection they can get, knowing that all horses are unpredictable sometimes, that accidents happen, and that head injuries are notoriously tricky. Find a comfortable helmet; try lots of kinds on and find the one that's best. Protect your sexy sexy brain, as my boyfriend puts it. :) Your soft, gooey brain. You can't toughen up your brain or your head the way you can the rest of your body. You can't put your brain in a cast. Once is all it takes.

I really believe that high-level and/or high-visibility riders ought to be more conscientious than the rest of us, since they are role models, like it or not. They're teachers by doing. Even the natural horsemanship leaders ought to wear helmets -- awesome communication with the horse doesn't always mean you'll stay on or the horse won't get bit by a snake or stung by a wasp or something. I'd support the USDF and USEF if they were to make a rule saying that everyone at every level must wear a helmet whenever mounted. The idea that dressage riders get marked down for wearing helmets, as if it makes them afraid of their horses, is absolutely ridiculous. This is a tradition that really ought to be broken ... and that statement's coming from a rather traditional person. If anything, riders in helmets ought to be scored better for their responsibility.

People might think that helmets look dorky, but ... honestly, it's easy to overlook, and just consider this: how dorky do you think you'd look in a hospital bed, hooked up to breathing machines, drooling, with a vacant expression on your slack face?

Ounce of prevention, pound of cure. Wear your dang helmet.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coulda sworn I had a title for this.

Blessed ibuprofen. :) Before the vet came out to do yearly shots, Coggins, and teeth-floating yesterday, Rev and I had a make-up lesson from this weekend. It involved lots of canter work for me, which boils down to getting a canter depart. So all of the muscles involved in me following MT's exhortations to SIT UP SIT UP SIT UP! are soooorrree. *grin* The shoulders-back muscles under my scapulae; the chest-lifting muscles under my ribcage, the butt-tucking muscles in my butt ... yeah. (Note to self: use butt-tucking muscles more, to avoid arching my back.)

I actually have a pretty good idea of why my canter aids aren't working -- I wasn't getting my inside seatbone in the correct position. I realized this morning that in the lesson I just wasn't doing this one step I'd been doing on my own, and I think that actually did me in.

So the prescription for the next several rides, for me, in addition to rein contact and light, subtle leg aids that don't deaden her to my leg, is going to be 'canter departs, and lots of them.' I know I can do it. I know I can. So I just need to keep practicing, so I can get them immediate and as automatic as the trot departs.

I'm definitely wanting to ride again tonight, but unfortunately, reality intervenes -- I have to work late. Plus, I imagine Rev will be happy to have a day off from the bridle (assuming MT didn't ride her today, which isn't a safe bet at all) after getting her teeth floated -- I know I would be, if there'd been that much vibration in my jaw for that long. Not sore, but probably sensitive. I can take ibuprofen, but she can't, really; I doubt bute is really warranted here. I just feel like it's not all that well tolerated and I don't want to use it for her unless I have to.

Anyway, the other thing that I asked the vet about was her complete hollowness on the left side and her stiff right hind -- she's nowhere near lame, but she just doesn't want to bring that right hind under her. So I wondered if chiropractic care would help her at all. He poked and prodded, and then confirmed my worry ... she's sore under her saddle and through her quarters. He told me to use the P3 unit on her (the equivalent of a TENS machine) for five days, see if that helps her. It probably will help the symptoms, but ... the actual problem, I'm convinced, is my saddle. Sigh. MT's Hennig fits her better than my Courbette does, but it's still not quite right.

I have no idea what kind of saddle she needs ... what I do know is that I can't afford it. :/ Does anyone have a medium-wide, nice saddle they want to give me, outright? *grin*

Anyway, I did get some pictures of my poor girl getting her teeth done. :) This first one reminds me a bit of people I knew in college -- droopy lip, floppy ears, droopy eyelids, and front legs all splayed out to keep her upright. *giggle*



I hated to giggle so hard at the poor girl, but ... it's funny! She's trying so hard to put her ears forward, and she can't quite get it together ...

Really, this only looks medieval ... it's very gentle, and it makes the vet's job sooo much easier!