Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Adult Event Camp

It was time to see if I could make an eventer out of Tax.  Took him to an eventing camp to school cross country for the first time.  He was a rockstar.  Turns out my pony can really jump!

We schooled dressage and stadium on Friday and cross country on Saturday including our first attempt at figuring out the pace. 

Sunday we put it all together for a mock competition.  My horse had 0 refusals and even went over the scary stuff we hadn't tried yet.  We even made it pretty close to the optimum time with an amazing gallup at the end. 

We've made so much progress recently.  Amazing what good riding lessons will do for you!  Thanks to Alana Henley of Sunfire Equestrian, Chris and Jordan McNabb of Twin Palms Combined Training and Stacie Campuzano of Freestyle Farms.

Here's the video of our school.  The commentary is pretty funny sometimes:

Video of us schooling cross country the first time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y83VhfZy4hc
Video of stadium: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kCTj323byY

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The UCD Derby, 2013 reprise

I've hit it hard this year training Tax for eventing.  My trainers all seem to think he's got a lot of potential so I'm trying not to waste it.  My goal is to complete and hopefully place in at least one Elementary level event this year with a goal of heading for Beginner Novice by the end of next season.  The different between Elementary and Beginner Novice seems huge at this point.

We found a dressage trainer that I think it brillant.  She's incredible at a couple of things. 

First, she's very dedicated to the learning process herself and just finished the 1st and 2nd level FEI trainer certification classes.  She gives hand outs complete with visuals when she's running her clinics and I find that very helpful.  She does lunge line clinics at times and that allows me to focus on feeling what my own body is doing and really develop a sense of feel I haven't had previously. 

She put together group dressage lessons as an experiment thinking it wouldn't work but so far its been amazing.  I'm such a visual learner that I learn just as much from watching the other riders as when I attempt something myself.  Plus at $25 for an hour and a half to two hours they are very affordable. 

I was having trouble getting Tax to be supple and connected at first.  She hopped on him to show him what she wanted and then had me get on to try.  We were working on bending to get him to soften on the inside rein.  She even physically came over to show me how it felt with the reins from the ground in a move I can't justify with an explaination in writing but it worked.  I felt what she wanted and it just clicked.  We've been able to maintain a much more connected suppleness ever since and I have to say that when that horse really gets down into a working trot it feels amazing. 

Tax has a long back, and uphill build and a very powerful hind engine that can sometimes overpower his shoulder so he wants to move up and down instead of forward.  I've done lots of work on pushing him out into a nice stretchy trot.  We even had a beautiful moment in one of our group lessons where she let him show it off for everyone for just a minute.  Then she asked if she can have him!  She says that the quality of his gaits is really very nice and if I can get him moving forward in our tests the way he is in lessons we should be scoring in the 70s on our trot.  The bad news...god its hard to get that horse to walk like he means it.  Our free walk needs so much work.

I also found a mother and daughter team of eventing trainers that I love.  The daughter is great for building confidence and she got us started jumping again in a good way.  Lots of grid work which we need.  There is something I find so calming about her I always go and do what she says with no fear because I figure she wouldn't ask if she didn't believe I could do it.

My first lesson with her mom was the scarest day of my life.  We were jumping beginner novice size stadium courses for the first time and she was just like, get in there and get it done.  Even though we got off to a bad start and my hands were literally shaking through the entire thing we ended on a very positive note.  She is the most challenging trainer I've ever had but still so kind and supportive.  I also had a huge break through when she came over and moved my leg position.  I'm such a hands on learner.  I needed to focus on keeping my knees bent and all of a sudden I felt the change.  I could stay in my seat but still stay with my horse over the fence.

The good thing about all of these wonderful trainers pushing me so hard is that its paying off.  Tax and I had gone to a derby (dressage and cross country scores are combined with no stadium) at UC Davis last year that didn't go so well.  We competed in Hopeful which is a walk/trot test and 18 inch fences with trotting allowed.  In dressage he spooked and bolted during our free walk across the diagonal.  In the jumping he spooked at a ditch that we weren't even going over.  I was so nervous I'd been standing in my stirrups and tumbled off over his shoulder.  It was a rough day and my confidence took a beating.

I decided to go and compete again in the Hopeful division only even though we're already schooling for begginer novice to see if I could get some of my confidence back.  Unfortunately, I had a really early dressage ride time and didn't get enough of a warm up in.  He was tense and a bit spooky.  We were in 6th place after dressage.  Cross country went amazingly well and we redeemed ourselves for last year.  Turns out jumping all that big scary stuff paid off.  Final result was a 3rd place in the Hopeful division!! 

We also got a 5th place in a second individual Beginner Novice dressage test that I added to make up for how bad the first one was.  It was cool because even though I didn't get a high score he was listening and the test was accurate.  We even had to canter.  We just need to get him to loosen up and move forward.  Also, need to work on his transitions a bit.

So much feed back to go back to trainers with...I love it!

Monday, February 25, 2013

I'm back...again

I missed my little blog and I'm having such fun with Tax right now.  We're getting ready for a busy season.  This is our first year of really being serious about some low level eventing.  I've been taking dressage and jumping lessons and my riding is better than ever.

Dressage is helping me finally really understand what “feel” is when riding a horse. This weekend I got to ride Tax for the first time since my little breakthrough last weekend.  Last weekend I got to see the dressage trainer ride him for the first time and it helped open my eyes about how to get him softer.  He is still very stiff warming up but we worked on the exercises we did in my last lesson. Every time I felt him stiffen his jaw to resist I would take my inside rein up and in toward my belly button bending his body with my outside leg for a few steps. As soon as he softened I would give a bit with the inside rein and drive him forward. After a bit he felt softer and we got a couple of much nicer transitions. The we hopped over a few jumps and I could feel we were more connected through his whole body which improved his jumping too.  The dressage trainer thinks that he's the kind of horse that it will take a little bit for the first level work to sink in but that it will be very easy to move him up to second level.  Unlike a lot of TB's he's able to move up and down and I'm constantly working on the going forward part.  This horse is going to be easy to teach to piaffe if I can ever get us there!

Then I got a chance to ride my friend’s horse, Lola. Lola is built very differently. Tax, even when not in a frame, feels flat at the worst to me. Lola can almost invert her neck so if you just try to pull her mouth to get a frame you end up with her head up and a bouncy pony trot. I tried the same technique with her and started to feel her round down and start to seek connection through the bit.  What a lovely trusting feeling! Toward the end of riding her I could literally feel her back-end come under her. At a canter to the left I could feel her try to bulge her shoulder to the inside instead of going straight. Her owner had me try riding her with a counter-bend for a few strides to get her haunches underneath. Worked like a charm.

I also got to watch Angela ride Tax and his trot looked really lovely.

Figuring this stuff out is so much fun!  It's almost Derby time again.  Let's see if I can get it done without falling off this year.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trail Ride Firsts

Angela texted me yesterday.  She wanted to see if we could get everyone together for a quick trail ride after work.  I ened up being the only one available so I told her we could load the boys in my trailer and head out for a quick ride.

I forgot I'd told my niece I was going to be at the barn and her mom texted me right about the time I was getting ready to hook up my trailer to let me know they were almost there.  I had to make a quick decision.  Meghan is going to be 17 this year (OMG) and she's been riding inconsistantly with me since she was 13.  She rides Charlie pretty well but he's been at my house since I had his shoes pulled because of an abcess.  I was pretty sure the Charles was sound but I've never taken him out on a trail and he isn't exactly in a working frame of mind with a couple of weeks off.  Despite some nerves I asked Angela if we could take two vehicles so I could bring my niece along for her first real trailride.

At the barn we checked Charlie to make sure he was sound, and he put on quite a show rearing and bucking on the lunge line.  Great.  At least he hops right in the trailer.  Loading Tax gets easier each time although he did decide to pull back after I'd started to tie him and hit his head scraping just about all of the hair off his forehead.  I'll have to get some pics of my lovely scalped horse.  That's never going to grow back before our next show! 

Soon we were on our way but it was later than we anticipated so we decided to go to Rattlesnake Bar, a horse assembly on a local river closer than our originally intended destination.  Sounds lovely doesn't it?  Actually I've never seen a rattlesnake up there but the scenery is beautiful.  I was a little nervous because the trail, while wide and clean, it drops off steeply to the river on one side most of the ride.  I remember the first time I rode it thinking I wasn't sure I ever wanted to ride it with Tax and now here I was with not just Tax, but Charlie who I've never taken out on a trail and my niece who hasn't been out either.

We started out with Megs on Charlie because she prefers him usually but he decided he wanted to hop around and threaten to rear like an idiot.  I offerred to trade and she took Tax, who was thankfully quiet and well behaved the entire trip.  After one scary hopping incident where I got my belt caught on my saddle horn Charlie decided to calm down and focus his engery on making it up and down the hills of the trail.  We rode for about 40 mins total without any further incident.  Everyone loaded back in the trailer calmly.

Here's to a sucessful first trailride for both Megs and Charlie.  I'm proud of them both!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The ladies of Serenity Farms went to the UCD Derby this weekend. It’s a fundraising event where you show in dressage and cross country. You can also just choose just dressage or just cross country, and show in multiple levels which is nice for schooling. Our competitive teams included Angela and Bear, myself and Tax, my friend Alyson and Tax and we were joined by a friend from another barn, Shauna with her horse Apollo. We also met up with Cara, another friend who catch rides for a few different folks and we got to meet her new warmblood filly, Bo.

Loading in the trailer has been an issue with Tax and this morning wasn’t going to be an exception. We’re working with a stud chain because he hasn’t shown much respect for staying at the trailer when asked. He likes to bolt off from time to time. When he hit the chain bolting backward the first time he reared, fell over backward, pulled the rope from my hand and got up and ran off stepping on the lead attached to the chain every other stride. It didn’t take long before he decided that was a BAD plan and stopped and stood looking at me like, “could you please save me now?” Curiously, he hopped in the trailer pretty quietly after that whole incident. Other than a small scrape on a fetlock and grass stains everywhere there was no real harm done.

Getting to the show and getting unloaded and tacked up went without a hitch. Warm up went pretty well also. It wasn’t long before it was time to ride our first ever dressage test.

The photos are beautiful but someone needs to explain to Tax that bolting across the diagonal wasn’t actually in the dressage test we practiced and certainly doesn’t resemble the free walk that we did practice. We’re going to have to find an indoor arena to practice in because that just freaked him out. There were (OMG) birds in the rafters, and the judge sitting in the bed of a pick-up to watch. So scary! And I never did figure out how to read my score so I’ll have to post that later. Overall there were a few nice moments and the judge said our turn out was lovely and we have potential.

She thought Alyson and Tax were a nice match (she does look good on him with her long, long legs) and he had calmed down a little so she did a little better with him. She just needs to practice steering straight.  Their first ride down the centerline looked like a drunk trying to walk the line on the side of the road after about 12 shots. I shouldn’t make fun…apparently I can’t make a circle to save my life.

Next up was cross country and Alyson decided to sit out for the jumping. The jumps at our level were just stadium cross bars set up in the field at 12 inches max, but my silly horse decided he’s never seen a cross rail before and hesitated in front of the first jump. It made me nervous because he’s never really done that before and I was afraid he was going to leap it like it was 20 feet tall. I got him going, he went over, nicely, and we made it to the third jump which was a bigger (by which I mean about 18 inches in diameter, so don’t think it was huge) solid pipe and this time he stopped dead in his tracks to look at it. It was my fault…I was too nervous to keep him in front of my leg. After a half a second he walked up and popped over. Again, we were on our way and started getting a rhythm. Over jump 4 and around the field to a long combo between 5 and 6. I only had once fence to go and then he saw the ditch. We weren’t jumping the ditch but it was there and it caused him to jig sideways just a bit. I’m not sure what happened…I rode the bucking and spinning and bolting in the dressage arena just fine and then one small jerk sideways and I flew off. I tried to hold the reins, I really did, but that’s a lot of horse. Tax took off, ran out of the cross country field, jumping the ass of another horse who quite frankly was IN HIS WAY. I love that my horse hesitates at a 18 inch pipe but another horse…no problem, I’ll jump it! Then he went tearing around the equestrian center until a nice girl caught him. I have no idea how he didn’t break the reins or kill someone.

The positives are that I wasn’t hurt and he got in the trailer VERY quietly after all that drama.

Lessons learned: You stop worrying completely about the quality of your free walk when you’re trying not to die. And we need to school a lot more before our next event.

I didn’t stay long enough to see how Cara and Shauna did but Angela did get a 1st on one of her dressage tests. I had a lot of fun bonding with my horsey friends. We’ve got a good group of riders and we’re all about the same level so showing this year will be a ton of fun.

 Shauna and Apollo

Angela and Bear                                             Anna and Tax
Alyson and Tax

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Long time gone...

Once again I disappeared off the map but this time for a very good reason.  I took over managing the boarding stable I keep my horses at.  It's my own little business and I rent the space from my neighbor.  It helps me cut down the cost of keeping my own horses but its also a ton of work. 

I want to change the format of my blog a bit to talk about what exciting things are going on around the barn but I'm also hoping to start writing stories again too.

Unfortunately, I lost December at the beginning of the year.  Her kidneys were failing and I have no idea why.  I made the best decision I could for her and had the vet put her down peacefully.  This is the first time I've had to make this decision for any of my pets and I will never be the same.  I miss her every day and I'm glad for the last year we had together and the wonderful relationship we developed.

Tax and I have been getting ready for a new show season and we're changing things up a little bit.  Most of my boarders are low level eventers and we all enjoy riding together so I'm going to give it a shot.  I've been taking dressage lessons with a wonderful trainer, Stacie Campuzano, and will be starting with a jumper trainer soon.  I'm looking forward to an amazing year.

On a very cool note one of the new girls at the barn is also a pretty damn good photographer so expect lots of pretty pictures.  See what I mean..?

A little group of us went to school on a cross-country course recently.  I'm planning to add a post about the experience shortly so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Who was your trainer?

This is a reponse to a blog on the Mugwump Chronicles today.

Who were my trainers?  I compiled a list of important people in my learning.

Anna Sewell, Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry for sure!

My neighbor Marnie who showed in the local H/J circuit and looked at me with horror every time she saw me barreling down the gravel driveway on my barefoot pony with no helmet but who tried to help me learn a little more and think a little more.

Applejack, the best pony a kid could have had.

Alicia who gave me my first job at a barn, introduced me to dressage and kept me out of at least a little bit of trouble in my teens.

Cody, my first OTTB, who taught me so much. We both managed to survive each other and even win at some smaller hunter shows. I wish I could still remember what it felt like to canter on his back. I’m glad I was able to find him such a good forever home when I couldn’t be the one.

Heather Whitney, for understanding that Cody was all I could afford and always trying to help us anyway. I’d had other trainers who I could tell looked down on me for not having the money their other students had. Heather was a friend and never bothered with those politics. She was also an extremely talented horseperson and its been a joy watching her rise to be a BN trainer.

Rhonda Bowerman, for showing me what a finely tuned WP horse looks like and for the showmanship lessons. I finally get what it takes to have a horse with good manners. I’ve heard so many horror stories about WP and paints. Rhonda’s had World Champion APHA horses and I’ve never seen anything but well built, content horses with long, long show careers come from her barn. Her assistant, Beth Wagner, for seeing everything. And for always being willing to teach me new things. I love her patience and her ability to explain what I need to do…and the kid is only 23. Humbling!

Tina Renison for her amazing work with Tax. He’s such a joy to ride these days.

All the family at Butte Star Ranch in Sutter for teaching me about how to sort cows. I got to watch a one rider and dog team sort by themselves. Amazing to get to see a real ranch dog do his job. I should have been born on a big ranch 100 years ago, I swear it.

Fugly Horse of the Day for teaching me to look at the horse world and my role in it, for helping when I got involved in a local abuse issue, and for introducing me to Mugs. Janet for teaching me the importance of respect and fairness in training. Also for giving it to me straight when I needed it and reminding me to ride like Ben. Now if I can just master my timing and feel I’ll be 20 steps ahead of where I was before I started reading this blog.

I’m also enjoying Larry Trocha’s newsletters. He’s really close to me so I’m thinking I might go down to watch one of his cow clinics next summer..

Especially to Grace and December, my girls, for teaching me mares aren’t all bad and helping me get over a lot of my fears, each in their own way.

So, any of my readers want to chime in??