Friday, October 23, 2009

AEC Videos

Thought I ought to share these with you guys :)

Dressage at AEC's 2009
Stadium Round at AEC's 2009

Val is currently a very happy pony- he gets to go out to the pasture on days when it's not drizzling rain, and when it is, he gets to stay inside and munch on hay. He's not had much work recently, pretty much exclusively on weekends. What rides we have had, we've been working on dressage. The jumping we did was fun, but now that I know I'm not going to forget how to jump, it's more important for us to focus on dressage. :)

I am anxiously awaiting our "Halloween break" next week- we get Weds. and Thurs. off for teacher conferences! 4-day weekend for absolutely no reason, huzzah! Then we have Thanksgiving waiting in the wings, then Christmas. The next semester will be here before you know it, and I'll be able to devote more time to Val. Things will be back to normal at last.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Relaxing Trail Ride

Yesterday, I made an attempt at dressage with Val. I rode him for at least an hour, and we tried to remember all the things we used to know. We did lots of getting an even contact in the walk, and I did quite a bit of posting without stirrups (ouch) to get my leg where it belonged. We did change of bend in the trot, and I tried to work on my sitting the canter. When my trainer came in to give someone else a lesson, she gave me a few pointers, so I stayed for maybe another 15 minutes after that.

According to her, he was tight across the top line and not taking the right rein correctly, so we worked on that for a while until I felt like we'd made a little progress. I was a bit frustrated with how hard it was for me to keep my position decent and how I was having trouble getting Val to do what he needed to do, so I eventually said the heck with it and hit the trails.

We have a couple loops behind our barns, and Val and I followed one of my favorites. They probably take only 10 minutes to ride max, so they're not particularly long trails, but I still like them. We found this one place in the woods where there's this old, dead, tree that's twisted from the wind. We stopped there for a while and just listened. It was cool to hear the birds slowly gather their courage to start chattering again after Val and I disturbed the peace.

Then we followed the path until it comes out by the river/stream, and we realized that when it's been raining really hard there's a mini-rapid that you can see. Also, there's a path that goes straight down to the water, which might be worth investigating for this summer. I'd have to go in on foot and make sure it's safe, but it probably is. It might be too muddy, though.

So we had a little adventure and relaxed and forgot all about dressage for a little while. Just what we needed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Good Hands?

Today we had another mini jumping lesson. I was a part of my cousin's lesson; I got to go through the line several more times and Val and I have really got that particular exercise down!

We did them a bit bigger today; when we finished, two were verticals and the cross rails were bigger than yesterday. Probably close to but not quite at the height we've jumped in the past. I'd guess they were 2'9", but I'm rotten with guessing height! Anyhow, the size is mostly unimportant. The good thing is that my hands were doing the right thing for once!

When I first started riding, my release was really not so good. I had the tendency to not release very much, which was pretty quickly replaced with the tendency to throw my hands to my horse's ears; as my trainer calls it, "punching my horse in the eye". That has been slowly replaced with a good crest release. Today, I finally had something good going on with my hands. I did not accidentally grab Val in the mouth once; I did not punch him in the eye.

It was funny, it didn't take a huge amount of effort, it was more like allowing my hands to do what they wanted to all along. When we were going over the ground poles without jumps, I was just squeezing really lightly in rhythm with him; I just started doing that without really thinking about it. When I said this to my trainer, she said that that was what she'd been trying to accomplish! When we started actually jumping, she said my hands were as good as they've ever been. Instead of concentrating on them, I just followed Val's motion; my release wasn't over-dramatic, just enough to give him his head. Now if only I can keep doing it this way!

I think my leg was bit better than yesterday too, although when I finally have free time to ride outside of a lesson, I want to work on a lot of two point and posting without stirrups. That's always so much fun!

Near the end of lesson, my cousin and I switched horses. She got to have fun with the trained horse that actually did walk-to-canters, and I got to play around with Stewie, a fairly green, beautiful appendix buckskin. I've got to say, I like Val better! I have seen Stewie ridden a lot by one of my trainer's really good students, and she can make him look like a jumper and get him around a whole course. I discovered that this was not as easy at it looked. Stewie turns like an absolute tank! I didn't get the chance to jump him but I did get to take him through the ground poles, and that went fairly well. He just feels so different from Val. I want to ride him more in the future; I'm really getting too accustomed to Val. Stewie felt down-right uncomfortable after riding my horse.

One particularly interesting part of that ride was when I asked him, twice, for a canter and he ignored me. I reached back with my crop and gave him a fairly moderate slap, and he blasted forward like a bullet! Laughing, my trainer informed me that he took the whip very seriously. However, he readily cantered the next time I asked! Silly horses.A picture taken on Thursday at the AECs while we were having a dressage lesson. A friend took this picture and I absolutely love it! Val looks so intense. Plus she did some cool editing.

Mini Jumping Lesson

It has gotten very cold here! I'm not really surprised, though. We never really had hot summer weather, and I predicted that because of our mild/cold summer, we will have a very long and cold winter. As our first freezing temperatures occurred last night (October 10th! The 10th of October!) and we had a chance of snow, I'm thinking I might be right... It's a good thing I like cold weather, I suppose!

I went out to the barn yesterday around noon and grabbed Val out of his stall. After I yanked his blanket off, we went out to our sand outdoor and I let him run off the steam he accumulated the last few weeks. Surprisingly, despite the cold wind and the fact that he hadn't been worked in over two weeks, he didn't really run very fast or buck at all. So, after convincing him to trot/canter from one end of the arena to the other a few times, we went inside and got tacked up. I ran the whip I'd borrowed to encourage him to run back to where it belonged and saw my trainer, who said that if I put my jumping saddle on Val I could use the same exercise she was going to do with another student who was having a lesson. I agreed.

When I put Val in the cross ties and came back with his saddle and accouterments, he looked at me with his ears pricked forward and a happy expression on his face. "We riding, mom? We riding? Let's go let'sgolet'sGO!" It was great to see. With Val all suited up for battle, we went back to the outdoor.

It was so cold and windy that I took my helmet off, put the hood of my hoodie on my head, and then put the helmet back on top! I was incredibly happy it fit; my ears would have frozen off otherwise. Then I got on Val, who felt energetic, but not crazily so. We started trotting around to warm-up, then cantered a bit.

In the middle of the arena, my trainer had set up a series of what would become one-strides with poles in the middle. Before they became jumps, we cantered over them, getting the proper stride length and drive that would allow Val and Stewie, the other horse, to "fit" in them nicely. Val tends to be short-strided, and Stewie has the tendency to go long, so we both had work to do. After a few tries, both of us could do the poles without trouble.

Then, the ground poles became small cross-rails one at a time, until we had 5 altogether with poles in the middle. I was definitely a little rusty, and my position was not the best. I have one particularly awful run when two cross-rails were set up where I got poor Val in the mouth pretty bad on the first one, then landed on his back, and then jumped too far ahead of him on the next cross rail. Fortunately, Val did not dump me on my head as I deserved. Oh, what they put up with from us humans!

Our last 3-4 runs went very smoothly. Val tried the whole time to trot between the first ground poles and the first cross rail, so I had to really push him forward to that, and we got it the last two times through. What was really fun was after the line, making the sharp turn (since the line took up most of the long side of the arena) to the left or right, depending on the lead you were on, and letting Val have a bit of speed, then setting him back on his haunches for another turn to go down the line again.

Although I've definitely lost some of my polish in the past month or so, it was really nice to see that I haven't regressed to an absolute pleb. Writing this, I keep thinking about when I first got Val. He used to not want to canter for me because he felt that I was unbalanced, and now this horse does walk-to-canters happily and gallops cross country exuberantly in my hands. Definitely makes me happy looking at how far we've come.
Val and I before our dressage at Briar Fox Farm, where we took 3rd place. Heh, perhaps this blog should be called sleepy-eyed eventers!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Riding Tomorrow; Pictures

For the first time since... I think the Sunday before last? E-gads, how terrible! We were out of town last weekend, though, which makes me feel slightly better.

I think my instructor wants me to have a lesson this weekend, but I'm thinking it might not be so successful, since I haven't ridden since the last one. That would not be fun!

Anyhow, some more pictures, just for the heck of it:
I like this dressage picture. Not behind the vertical, not awful position for me, Val tracking up as much as he ever does...
Good boy!
We have the same expression! I've heard of people who look like their dogs; what about people who look like their horses?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wide Open Spaces

Well, school has been kicking my butt lately. Val is having a well-deserved break. Ideally, I thought I'd still be able to ride every other day of the week, but I've been lucky to get one ride in during the school week.

Obviously, Val is fairly fit. He just came off nearly a year's worth of daily work and a long eventing season. He was only getting 2 or 3 hours of turnout from his stall, and I just wasn't having the time to ride the extra off. It wasn't fair to him, so he was introduced to the herd today.

I know it's best for him, but I feel like I'm giving up on doing my best for him, in some way. On the good side, he gets to stay out during the week, but he can still stay in his stall on the weekends. I know he'll love eating nearly 24/7 and having less work, and I know the rest will be good for his joints. I just hate having to admit that I can't ride my horse 6 days a week and get good grades in my classes. I hate being the person that just goes out to feed her horse every day. I want to be able to spend time with him like I always have, and I really hate having to choose between him and school.

Plus, I'm fully capable of admitting it: I'm scared of what will happen to my riding. Just this first month or so with me not riding him consistently has already affected me negatively. In January, when he's supposed to come back into regular work, how far back will I have slipped?

So, I'm pretty sure he'll be happy as a clam. I just wish I was as chuffed with the situation. I think the best thing to do is just keep a positive attitude the next few months. Whatever I lose in the interim, I can get back. And no matter what, we're going to keep chugging after the 1st of the year. At semester, one of my classes that was only for my first semester is replaced by a study hall, so I should have more school time to work on homework. Hopefully, that means less time spent at home doing acres and acres of homework, and more time spent riding and gearing up for the next eventing season.

I'll still be taking lessons on weekends, but it will be odd having only 1 or, best case scenario, 2 days to practice what I've learned in between them. I'm sure we can adjust.

On the plus side, senior year is going to be a cake walk compared to this year. I can't hardly wait!

My favorite picture of Val and I from Champagne Run this summer:

ETA: I also wanted to add that I am rather absurdly pleased that you can see my saddle shine a bit in that picture. If this was submitted to PH for George Morris' column, he would obviously point out that my feet are pointing out like a duck's and my heels are definitely up in the air. However, we have very conservative turn-out (for eventing!) and my saddle is clean. Bonus point for sure, I would imagine. And because of my awful leg position, he can't see the bottom of my boots! (It always kills me when he scolds people for having dirt on the bottom of their boots.)