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.