Saturday, July 19, 2014

Getting up to speed

I wish I had thought to start this blog roughly 2 years ago, back in November of 2011 when I first brought home "Maggy" as a foster horse from the MSPCA at Nevin's Farm.
MSPCA Nevin's Farm Maggie Adopted Mustang
They let me put the "adopted" star on the sign!

Maggie was part of a herd of mustangs and mustang x Arab crosses that were seized from a farm in western Massachusetts as part of a neglect case. When she came to me she was just halter broke. I spent the rest of the winter doing ground work with her; teaching her to tie, pick up her feet, be groomed, work on the lunge line, etc. By springtime she was getting used to wearing a saddle. My first time on her was bareback and I had friend lead me around as if I were on a pony ride. The second time I put a saddle and a rope halter on her and we puttered around the arena for a little while. For her third ride we trail rode with a few friends of mine down to a local pond and back. She marched along the several mile trail like she had been doing it all her life. 

Last October (2013), I took Maggie to her very first show at Pipestave Hill in West Newbury. We placed 3rd in the "Grasshopper" division (a two-phase) and I could not have been more proud of her!

Pipestave Hill October 2013 Dressage
Riding Intro Test B at PHHT in October 2013

Pipestave Hill October 2013 Jumping
Warming up for her first stadium jumping course

I hope to write more about Maggie's early progress later, but for now I want to get this blog up to speed with the current happenings. 

My goals for this spring and summer were to get her out to more shows, getting comfortable with the surroundings, improving our dressage, and eventually going baby-level XC.

At the end of May I took her to the Groton House Farm 2-phase - her second ever show. With a dressage score of 34.4 and two jumping refusals we took home 3rd. Both refusals came at the first fence of the course. For whatever reason, that fence was downright spooky! Two other people in our division and multiple riders in other divisions were eliminated right then and there. I was extremely proud that we were able to get over it the third time! 

Warming up for dressage at the GHF 2-phase in May. This is one of the better pics, but looking at all of them afterwards I decided that one thing I really needed to work on was keeping myself sitting tall with my shoulders back.

Groton House Farm 2-phase jumping. May 2014
GHF 2-phase stadium jumping. Photo by Elisabeth Pundt Photography
Groton House Farm 2-phase 3rd Place
We got 3rd overall at GHF 2-phase! Pretty psyched!

In June, we went to the GHF Summer Classic, but did the dressage only. I didn't feel like she was quite ready for the slightly more imposing jump and the longer course that the GHF offered. She was pretty nervous warming up this time out for whatever reason. Partly, I think she was hearing the horses over in the stadium warm up. We rode Intro Test B first and came out with a 36.9. Not horrible; looking at the other scores of the day it's still a competitive score, but I knew we could do better than that. We also rode BN test A, which not only was our first time doing this test, but her first time cantering in a test! She was able to relax a little more by the time we went into the ring this second time and we got a 35.8. I was just happy she picked up the correct lead in each direction! We also came out with our first ever 8 for our centerline at the start of the test. Overall a good experience, but I certainly wished she would have relaxed more.

Groton House Farm Summer Classic dressage schooling June 2014
Before our first test at the GHF Summer Classic dressage schooling. She was very "looky" that day.
So that sums up where we are up to this point. There are a couple things that I've been working on since then:

  1. Me relaxing = Maggie relaxing. When I get tense, I tend to shorten the reins and hold too much contact. This makes her get more tense too and then we're both just a hot mess.
  2. Control the trot rhythm with my seat, not my hand. Use my core muscles to control my posting speed.
  3. Sit up tall and keep my chin up and shoulders back. The need for this was very apparent in some of the photos that were taken!
The cool thing is, all these bullet points are interrelated. If I sit up tall then I'm better able to use my core to slow my posting, which helps me control Maggie's rhythm and speed. She likes to pick up the speed when she's nervous and tugging on the reins certainly doesn't help, so keeping myself from getting tense and being able to slow her down with my seat instead of my reins will help her stay relaxed as well!

The next show on the menu is the Pipestave Hill Horse Trails in West Newbury. I plan on entering the Elementary division, which means running our first XC course! Stay tuned! 

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