Horses lend us the wings we lack.

In riding a horse we borrow freedom.

The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Run Away Horse...

With our next show in a matter of a couple days, I have been trying to cram as many lessons in as possible to prepare ourselves for our first dressage test.  Eddy was a superstar last weekend, so I was feeling that Eddy should be on his best behaviour during our lesson. Well, I felt wrong.  Though he is getting much better at the downward transitions... his prior life he only was given the "go" and never the "whoa".   (It took me a year and a half to get him to stand beside the mounting block and another half year to get him to only walk as I got on).   

Eddy was as hot as hot can be.  Realizing that I had been practicing the walk/trot test for the last couple weeks instead of the entry test which I was suppose to ride, I needed to work on my canter.  And away we went..... Goodbye Ali and Eddy.....

Usually the canter is our best gait, best form, best impulsion, best carriage, but last night it became all about going stronger, faster and lest more and more out of control.  Because he is a jumper, I sometimes worry if I can't steer him I may find myself jumping out of the ring  (Yes, he is a point and aim kinda guy...)

I could see my coaches blank expression meant - OMG, we're doomed for Sunday's test.  "Maybe he just needs a good run?" She suggested. Well, that's fine and dandy I complied, (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?)  IF I had any type of brakes. We switched the bit up to a western snaffle. I am not hard handed, so this bit isn't cruel it just gives me a better insurance policy for stopping.  It actually makes Eddy quite soft when he is one of "those kind of moods" but for everyday riding, it is much too much of a bit.  (I used to put my old mare in this bit when the spring time came and the happy bucking and bolting fits began. It made her very sweet. As my coach would say "you could melt butter in her mouth".  I don't really get that saying, but it really sets the tone...  )

Out I went for a run.  My mind is thinking  "am I crazy ?" - or -  "this may be kinda fun". Not everyday does your coach condone you running your horse to take the edge off.  Low and behold, it was what we needed. We did a beautiful controlled canter all around the fields of the farm AND I HAD BRAKES! We returned to the barn. I thought we were going to call it a night, but back we went to the ring.  Let's test the theory.... yup, it worked. We did a perfect dressage test.

What's on the itinerary for Saturday?  A good run on the trails. LOL

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our first show... setting the bar

Back from our first show of the season! Apparently, according to my friend, I was suppose to set the bar low for my first show, so there is room for improvement. Unfortunately that will be a hard target to reach.  We got reserve champion!  Out of a class of 24 - an unusual large turnout, we managed a 2nd place in our first course, a 1st place in our second course and a 2nd place in our third course.  The hack class we totally bombed, but what do you expect when an averaged sized outdoor ring is full of 24 horses... mostly ponies and I am on one of the biggest horses out there. Yes, I almost ran over a pony in our canter (the ponies brakes were better than ours) and yes, I was on the wrong lead (oops), but there wasn't enough room to concentrate! I was trying to keep everyone alive!  Well, I guess there will be room for improvement after all.... hahaha. I am so proud of Eddy, he lived up to his show name, Steady Eddy. Someone even joked that he was drugged.... no! just "chilled" and I am just fine with that!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The man from snowy river

On a whim, I decided to go for a quick ride on my retired mare. Having to catch up to the other riders already on trail, I  threw on my helmet, a halter bridle and proceeded saddle-less.  My stiff mare was feeling quite limber and (breaking all rules) I pushed her into a jog as soon as I got on.  Sheylan (my mare) was all business. 

I bobbled along bareback down the driveway, to the back hill which leads to the creek where the other riders were waiting.  I steadied her into a walk at the hill, but halfway down, a walk just wasn't going to cut it for Shey and she went into her trot again. Did I mention it was slightly muddy, I was bareback and going down a hill??  (again with the breaking of all rules - hey, you gotta have a little fun on the retired one's, right?) I felt like the man from snowy river, galloping down the steep ridge. Well, I wasn't galloping, and though the hill is steep, it probably wasn't as dangerous - my horse can maneuver down anything if you give her her head.  Despite that I sure felt like I was going to go "over the handlebars" as my fiance would put it. Squealing all the way down, I sat back as far as I could and "rode it out".  I survived.

We joined the others and set out in a swift trot around the meadow.  The more we trotted, the faster we were getting (yes, I was leading) and the more I began to realize I had very little control with the halter bridle (why the heck did I put that thing on anyways??). We switched to the back of the line when one of the other horses decided that being nudged forward to catch up meant leap forward on all fours, buck down a slight hill and then buck all the way up it (wow, I wish I could creatively write how funny it was to watch the rider's eyes scream "OH MY GOD" whilst her mouth formed a slight smile as she got him back under control). 

I decided enough of the shanannagans, I gotta get this beast under control before the other riders never ask me to ride with them again.  Well, a little too late I guess, as I took up my reins, sat a little deeper, Sheylan took full advantage of the small hill in front of us and squealed (that's my warning bell), bolted forward and bucked all the way down the hill. Again I found myself in the same predicament going much faster than I preferred downhill. I do know enough to keep her head up, but unfortunately the halter bridle was no such help. Her head was so low to the ground I thought this was it, over the handlebars I go.  Well, if I wasn't gifted with coordination I was gifted with supreme balance - I have survived spooks like you wouldn't believe.  My wonderful center of gravity saved me and I stayed right on her back the entire way down until I finally managed to pull her head up at the bottom. I was having too much fun to tune her in... and burst into laughter as did my fellow riders.  Nothing makes me smile more than when my horse feels good enough to grace me with a few happy bucks :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's Show Time

After much procrastination, I finally buckled down, and admitted I am not going to get any younger - it's time to compete again.

No, not endurance, I am flying my flag in another territory now. What?  Oh, just hunter/jumper, dressage and cross country (You know, the whole eventing thingy, oh plus a few hunter shows on the side). Yes, I have my work cut out for me, but I have the horse who will take me where I want to go. I have always dreamed of being an all-around rider. I want to say: been there, done that!  But sitting idle in my saddle at home won't get me there. It's time to put in place an action plan and nothing says that more than when I tell my coaches, I am going to a show! Suddenly your casual riding turns into serious time in the saddle working hard to improve all your flaws just in time for the show.

Did I mention dressage and jumping?  Yes, two coaches, two totally different ways of riding... my body is slightly confused - two point or three point? hands high or low? stirrups up or down? But, hey! others riders can do it, so can I... right?  The good old muscle memory is in training. The funny thing is, the more dressage I do, the better my jumping is and the more jumping I do, the more I learn what in dressage I need to work on to get my jumping better. Huh, who knew?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dressage and the power of your seat

Our dressage is a little rusty - okay much more rustier than I'd like to admit, but with my first eventing show in three weeks, I have been doing some catch-me-up dressage lessons. Eddy and I are finally in tune (oh, for the most part anyways) when it comes to jumping. No longer is he scaring the crap outta me and no longer am I to him. Did I mention how strong he is??  Really, it came down to me managing his strides, but... again that's a whole other tangent...  Being so strong and hard mouthed (but sensitive in so many ways) our riding sometimes becomes a fight about who is stronger - you can guess I rarely win. We had Eddy going great in a myler bit, but I have discovered he needs to be rotated when it comes to the bit department, and what works for jumping, doesn't necessarily work for dressage. 
I was out last night, working on my flatwork with Eddy being in one of his anxious moods, and me, a little tired, we began this fight. I wanted him round, he wanted to be flat and full out extended trot.  As soon as I used contact, he popped his head up and hollowed his back. Grrrrr.  Out comes my coach.  "Give him the reins!"  (I don't really want to - he is just going to blast forward!!!!!) But, I do as I am told. "Now let him extend". He trots fast.... "Start slowing your posting, and DON'T use your reins!" Some collection starts to take place, but I am still not convinced... "Relax your upper body and post just with your seat, you're putting too much weight in your stirrups" (oh that is such a weakness of mine...) "Good, good!, now start sitting heavier every time you post, while still slowing your posting".  It worked, he slowed down, came into a proper trot and was in proper frame. Never underestimate the power of your seat.  Especially with a horse like Eddy who is ultra sensitive to the aids.  Yes, he pulls, but he can only pull if there is something to pull on.