Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 Goals: 1st Quarter Check-In

Obviously not a ton has been going on for these first three months of 2015 (heck, I didn't even ride during the whole month of February) but I figure I'll check in with my 2015 goals anyway...

Riding Goals:

1. Find a trainer in the area to take jumping lessons with.
My trailer has literally been buried in the snow, so no progress on this yet.

2. Keep up with lessons at least twice a month.
Maggie had a little colic episode early in January this year, but bounced back well and we snuck in one lesson at the end of January right before the Snowpocalypse began. Then in February the snow kept coming and coming, so I decided to can it and didn't ride at all during that month. However, this month I've gotten back on the horse both literally and figuratively and did a lesson in the first week of and the fourth week of March. So at least this month was a win, and frankly, considering the colic and snow I think I did a pretty decent job keeping this goal on track!

3. Get more confident over fences and school XC more.
Hahahaha...XC schooling. That's a funny one. I didn't expect to have achieved this by now anyway - this will be a summer thing! Maggie did feel great over 2'3" the other week though, so that's good.

4. Stay relaxed in dressage.
Clearly, there have been no shows to test this thus far, but I have pretty good hopes. In the lessons I've taken since last show season, I think I've learned some good tools for slowing down and staying relaxed and I think that my body control is improving as well which should help.

5. Show at the Beginner Novice level.
Yeah no, not yet.

Blog Goals:

1. Keep up with posting.
YOU GUYS I'VE DONE SO GOOD WITH THIS!!! My goal was to post twice a week at minimum, but I have consistently been posting THREE times a week! BOOM.

2. Participate in blog hops.
I'm still not totally into this for whatever reason, but I did do the SMTT Equestrian Scavenger Hunt and FOO's Day in the Life.

3. Get a sponsored raffle/ product review.
It wasn't quite what I had in mind, but for my very first product review (the Scratch n All grooming pad) I was able to offer a special 'purchase 10 get 2 free' offer. No idea if anyone used it...

Blogging and watching live stream eventing. Aw yeah.

Personal Goals:

1. Stay active outside of riding.
I HAVE DONE SO GOOD WITH THIS TOO!!! I've been going to the gym and running or biking at least 3 times a week - sometimes more. There isn'r really any weight loss going on (which is kind of but not really a goal) but I have noticed my cardiovascular improving. I'm starting to run for longer stretches at a time now and my breathing has been great. I've actually just registered for my first 5k at the end of April - the Pipestave Hill 5k Trail Run. Yes, the same Pipestave Hill that we've evented at! So that should be fun :) At least for all the not-riding I've done during February I got a lot of gym time in!

2. Pay off Maggie's surgery.
Well, I have not won the lottery or come into some major inheritance within the last 3 months, so this obviously is still hanging over my head. I have chipped away just a little bit at it though, so I'm working on it!

You know, for having a colic plus the winter from hell I'm gonna go ahead and say I've done a pretty decent job overall. We may not have even gotten a change to work on a lot of these goals (I'm looking at YOU riding goals involving jumping), but I definitely feel like we've been doing some excellent flatwork and I think that we're going to come into the show season this year stronger than we did last year, which is really all I can ask for right now!

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's Melting!

The snow! It's melting! I thought it would NEVER leave! Though it's certainly not all gone yet, there has been a vast improvement over the last two weeks or so. Here's a pictorial update/comparison:

Feb 16th
March 25th

The paddocks are an absolute mess right now, but that's to be expected - a funny thing happens when a horse poops on the packed down snow and then it drops below freezing freezes. Even a daily raking doesn't make it look nice, but we still try our best and help it thaw layer by poopy layer.

Feb 10th
March 25th
The snowbanks have receded enough now that we can assess the fence carnage. We knew that all the electric tape would be in terrible shape, but I didn't expect the couple broken rails  down at the end of Maggie's paddock. I made a quick temporary fix by replacing them with the bottom rails from part of the fence lining the grass paddock... 

Feb 10th
March 25th
Fixed it...?
What we really need is for it to be consistently above freezing so we can keep the melting going, but the temperature has been very spotty. We had a couple excellent days of rain the other weekend which was fine by me because it really kicked off washing all the snow away. Aside from that though it's only been consistently in the mid 30's, so technically above freezing, yes, but not quite enough to really wash it away. We'll get there soon...maybe... I'm doubting I'll be able to get out to XC school at all before June, I expect the footing to be in really sorry shape for quite a while.

Found the mounting block!
I think this winter gave me a little PTSD because I'm getting anxious looking at these 'before' photos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Canter Revelations

I think that my dressage instructor has been meaning to work on canter transitions with me since last summer, but we've kept getting stuck at the trot. By the time we've got a nice consistent and rhythmic trot from Maggie we're already 45 minutes into the lesson and poor Maggie is about pooped. Rightfully so to work on trot so much though - crawl before walk, trot before canter, right?

Coming into last night's lesson I showed off our counter-bending at the walk, which has vastly improved since our lesson two weeks ago - we can turn on a 5 meter circle now instead of running into the wall! Amazing! Then I picked up the trot and showed the instructor that our counter-bending has also improved at the trot. Finally, I brought Maggie onto a regular 20 meter circle at the trot and got the most rhythmic, consistent trot out of her that I've ever had at the beginning of the lesson. I'm not sure if my trainer had been planning to work on the canter already or if she just then decided that we finally had a decent enough trot, but it was then declared that this was the day for canter transitions!

She started out by asking me to half-halts with my body only and then when Maggie responded by slowing, to ask her to move out again. Apparently I passed this test (thanks core muscles!) because Maggie responded just the way she should have and we had some nice changes of tempo without using my hands to slow her. According to my instructor, being able to this is a precursor to being able to ask to the canter and maintain the canter correctly, because it's all about body control. Makes sense to me.

"I am ready for the canter now!"

We started off tracking right, and worked in this direction for most of the lesson. To ask for the canter tracking right I need to:

  1. Make sure she's bent to right enough and not popping her should to the inside.
  2. Sit up TALL TALL TALL.
  3. Ask for the canter when the outside hind is coming forward (what would be the sitting part of posting) because this leg will take the first step in the canter.
  4. If needed, wake her up a little/ let her know something is about to happen with a small tap of the whip.
All of those are things that she had already taught me, but man are they hard to do all at once! It's going to take more practice of course to get myself perfectly in sync and Maggie attuned, but we did decent for now and got to a point where we were getting acceptable upward transitions.

Now, here's where I had a revelation. It took a solid 5 minutes stopped in the center of the ring asking my instructor questions to finally have some semblance of an understanding of what she was telling me to do with my body while I was actually cantering. Unfortunately, I'm not even sure I can put this adequately into words for you - goodness knows I had trouble enough understanding it from a trained professional - but essentially I've got to move my hips in a forward and sideways motion to the outside. When I finally understood and did this successfully, I got the most wonderful canter out of Maggie that I have ever felt! IT WAS AWESOME! So awesome that I got all excited and forgot about the downward transition that I was supposed to be focusing on as well. Oh well. Maggie and I were both given big metaphorical pats on the back for getting it, then it was back to work.

"Canter is hard..."
Understanding how my body should move with the horse at the canter was huge, but there are still loads of other things that I need to work on at the canter so that it can all fall into place:
  • When preparing for the downward transition to trot: think about stretching up tall again and slowing the rhythm of my body.
  • Ask for the down ward transition at the moment in the canter that my hips swing forward, which is the third beat.
  • When tracking right: keep her shoulders moving outside using the movement of my body towards the outside, while halt-halting with my inside rein at the moment my hips come forward. when doing this, don't forget to give (but maintain contact) with the outside rein allowing her outside shoulder to move freely. If you take with one hand, you need to give with the other - I have a tendency to seize up and take with both hands. 
Like I said, we worked mostly tracking right so much of the lesson focused on the above aids in particular. Before calling it quits we worked a bit tracking left so that I would know what I needed to work on in that direction. I've said it before: tracking the other direction is like riding a different horse. Well, it is and it isn't...the aids are different...but they're different because Maggie has the same weakness in that she wants to over-bend left which manifests itself differently depending on the direction that we're tracking and therefore takes different aids to correct it. I think that may have made sense?

Anyway, aids for the left lead canter:
  1. Before asking for the transition, make sure she isn't over-bending to the left. Might need to use outside aids to straighten or even counter-bend (look counter-bending - we worked on that!!) her before asking. 
  2. Sit up TALL TALL TALL.
  3. Ask for the canter when the outside hind is coming forward (what would be the sitting part of posting) because this leg will take the first step in the canter.
  4. If needed, wake her up a little/ let her know something is about to happen with a small tap of the whip.
Note that steps 2-4 are the same for both left lead and right lead canter. When tracking left I need to use more outside rein in order to keep her on the proper bend instead of over-bending left and popping her right shoulder out. 

We ended with some nice trot on a long rein with contact and letting Maggie stretch down - she's getting good at this! My instructor said I need to play around with my rein length a bit and try and find the "sweet spot" for contact. 

Maggie was a ROCKSTAR right from the get-go for this lesson. Ears pricked and everything. Needless to say I stuffed her face full off cookies we were done. She certainly worked hard and had worked up quite the sweat so I took her for a little walk down the driveway after I untacked her and threw her cooler on. 

She was weirdly into smelling the ground as we walked up and down the driveway...

Looking forward to seeing if I can replicate that magical canter on my own the next time I ride!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Exciting/ Not-So-Exciting

Three-legged horse?
Things are both exciting and not-so-exciting right now. First off, I got a promotion at work and I'm changing jobs - so that's exciting! It's also a little scary, because until we get someone to replace me in my old position, I essentially have to do both jobs at once. It's gonna be great! (I hope my sarcasm is evident there.) In the realm of not-so-exciting, there was a conference this past week relating to my new position that just so happened to be in Boston so I was pretty busy with that Tuesday through Friday - meaning I didn't get off the train until around 7:30 each evening, so no riding. Sad face. 

I did get fed pretty well at the conference, though.

Maggie therefore got 5 whole days off, so when Saturday rolled around I was really eager to tack her up and go for a ride. I decided to jump because why not? I was certain Maggie would need to burn some energy, so I figured I'd channel it into jumping rather than a potentially unproductive dressage ride. I tied her reins up and lunged her for a minute first; she cantered and got a few bucks out, so I figured we were good and then I let her loose (with the reins still tied up) while I set some jumps. Usually Maggie follows me around and "helps" as I set jumps, but apparently she wasn't actually done being a crazy-face so she proceeded to gallop up and down the long side while I finished setting jumps. So she warmed herself up pretty good.

I walked her around a good bit to let her catch her breath, and then we started jumping. She was keen to jump everything I set up which included a baby cross rail and two 2'3" verticals. I think it's sad how 2'3" still looks kind of big to me...though I'm certainly getting more comfortable with it and I think I'll be much more comfortable with at the start of this show season compared to the start of last show season. Maggie never hesitated at all despite my inability to get her to a good distance consistently at the verticals. I had my friend film our last pass through all the jumps:

I was initially disappointed because I though that this last pass through was kind of a hot mess, and maybe it is, but I don't think it looks as bad on film as it felt. After my friend turned the camera off she said it looked like I was pulling on her before the jumps. I kind of dismissed the comment initially because I felt like we were rushing at the jumps and I was doing my best to control her pace. Looking at the video now though, I don't think it appears that we were really rushing. I think it looks like a decent pace, and perhaps I just need to get out of her way! Of course, balance and getting good distances are still something to work on. A lot.

Sunday we had a pretty nice dressage ride with nothing really all that notable. As predicated, she was very well-behaved after the Saturday's jumping session. I tried working on walk/trot transitions which were 'meh'. We did get some pretty good trot/canter transitions though, and in the downward direction especially I noticed that she's staying rounder in the bridle instead of throwing her head up at the first trot step - hurray for a little progress there!

I think our leg yields are getting better after all the bending/ counter-bending practice, particularly now that I can feel her listening to my individual seat bones. Sometimes I think I really can feel her legs cross over, whereas I just kind of felt her shuffling sideways before. I had another friend video us before she left the arena:

Not sure if Maggie was getting tired or what, but it felt like a hot mess again. I certainly didn't feel her really crossing over like I sometimes do. Also, she wasn't giving me a very nice trot at all as I was trying to set her up for it. I think she had decided she was probably done at that point. Oh well...

So that was my horse-less week and my slightly more horsey weekend. Dressage lesson scheduled for Tuesday evening!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Feedback: Location, Location, Location

While reading all the posts from Fly On Over's Day in the Life blog hop (which I completely forgot to add my link to) and writing about my own day in the life, I got to thinking about commutes. Not just about commutes to work, but commutes to the barn as well.

Some folks live right near their job, but maybe they have to trek a little farther to see their pony. Some of us live closer to our horse, or even keep our horse at home, but have a long commute into work. I think I have yet to meet someone who has the best of both worlds - a short commute to both work AND the barn! This work/life/horse balance is the curse of the adult amateur, but I think it is also part of what defines us.

So I'm curious, Which do you prefer: a shorter commute to work or a shorter commute to the barn?

Living the life. Wish I could do this every day!

As for me, I prefer the short commute to the barn. That's what I have now; it's 2.6 miles away from my house and takes around 6 minutes driving. I'd rather have my trips to the barn be a stress-free and effortless as possible. To get to or from work, it's nearly a two hour process for me so it's nice to be able to get off the commuter train in the afternoon, go to the barn to unwind, and then simply have a very short journey home to my apartment. Plus on the weekend it's very nice not to have to waste precious time trekking to and fro!

So, readers, give me some feedback! Which commute to you prefer be shorter: the one to work or the one to the barn? Are you lucky enough to live close to both? Or are you unlucky enough to have a trek to each one?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Jumped!!!

But first, some more dressage.

Not the saddle of jumping.
I gave Maggie Wednesday off last week after our lesson on Tuesday, for a little physical and mental recovery. She worked HARD, sweated a lot, and I don't want to sour her to flatwork by drilling the same concepts again while she could potentially be tired and sore from the day before. Additionally, I think it helps to have a day off after a long, tough lesson because it also gives us both time to digest what we learned.  So I rode Thursday instead and kept it short and sweet (about 20 mins).

She was immediately better at the counter bending on a circle at the walk, even with my still-spotty aids. Trot counter bending was a little rougher this time though, but got a bit better as the ride went on. Overall, she was really good and was still trying hard even if I'm still not sure what exactly I'm doing. One thing I have found, is that she's instantly more responsive to my request to bend (particularly tracking right) when I remember to put more weight down and back on my inside seat bone (whoda thunk, right?). Literally though, her response to that aid is instant and it feels really cool!


Friday I gave her the day off again and then Saturday I made plans to ride with a barn mate and JUMP! The last time we jumped was...January 2nd, when we kept it simple and literally just cantered over a 18" raised cavalletti. Soooo...yeah, I guess it's been a little while.

I tried to warm her up on the flat with a little dressaging, but I was not very effective. It could have been due to several different factors: perhaps she was looking at the two jumps that we had set up and was all excited, perhaps it was the two other horses in the ring, or perhaps it was because I was riding in the Wintec. I like to blame it on the Wintec. Frankly, I don't feel effective in it though that's probably because I haven't ridden in it since January 2nd and it's quite a different feel from my dressage saddle. Someday I will have a beautiful leather jumping saddle...

Anyway, my friend and I just set up two jumps, one on each long side. One was a baby cross rail and the other was a strange looking mini Swedish oxer that was uneven in the center (this friend likes to set up creepy looking jumps). I pointed Maggie towards the cross rail at a trot first and she pricked her ears and over jumped it by about 2 feet to the entertainment of everyone in the ring watching. Then when I cantered her over it at the second pass, she literally squealed with joy as I turned her toward it.  What can I say - she gets excited.

Over the creepy jump.
Since she certainly seemed game enough for jumping, so then I decided to take her over the creepy looking little Swedish oxer thing. I admit, I thought she was going to spook at it. However, to my delight, I was very wrong. I had intended to trot her over it, but the instant I turned her toward it I could actually feel her lock on it and she picked up the canter on her own and carried us over. Normally, I don't encourage her to change gaits without me telling her to, but I didn't correct her this time because I was just so pleased to have felt her lock onto it and know that she was going to over it! THAT is the feeling I have been waiting for! We went over the creepy jump before putting the back pole up to it's proper position and creating a little 2'3" oxer. 

As we jumped some more I could actually relax a little and focus on myself, knowing that Maggie was in gear and wasn't going to refuse. I could feel myself have a decent position some of the time too! At least I know can tell the difference between the feel of a crap jumping position and a more decent and stable one.

Blurry, BUT MY LEG IS AT THE GIRTH AND MY HANDS ARE RELEASING!!! So much better than the previous pic.
Sunday was back to dressaging though and we had a fairly easy ride with another friend. Back in the dressage saddle, Maggie was more responsive to my aids again and did even better with walking in a circle counter bent. In my never ending quest to find a way to alleviate Maggie's mouthiness while under saddle, I decided to swap out her full-cheek snaffle for a loose-ring. Mostly, I was actually just curious if I could steer properly in the loose-ring since I had mainly used the full cheek when training her. She wen't totally normally despite the bit swap (including her usual bit chewing antics) so I'm pleased that she's not dependent on the full-cheek! I'll probably keep her in the loose-ring for dressage for a while, just because.

I guess one other thing that was notable about Sunday was that it freaking snowed again. Only 3 inches, but that 3 inches was just enough for Boston to break the record of snowiest winter EVER at 108.6 inches total. Hooray? Can we stop now? I didn't want my dressage saddle to get wet (not that it doesn't already have water spots on it) so I invented a new use for quarter sheets:

"This doesn't seem right..."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Run, Bike, Ride, Paddle: The ECTAthlon

About a week and a half ago, I saw an article on Horse Nation about a new take on the traditional triathlon. In a traditional triathlon, each competitor completes a leg of running, biking, and swimming. In this new type of triathlon, the Dubai Desert Triathlon, the swimming is replaced with an endurance ride! The Dubai Desert Triathlon made it's debut in 2014, but I hate to break it to them - my local trail association has been running a competition like this for several years now!

ECTA logo courtesy of

The Essex County Trail Association (ECTA) partners with public and private landowners to protect, maintain, repair, and construct trails in several towns within Essex County, Massachusetts. In the spirit of celebrating the versatility of our local trails, the ECTA created a four-discipline relay race in 2011 and dubbed it the ECTAthlon. The relay begins with a several mile train run, followed by a mountain bike course, a horseback ride, and finally a kayak race to the finish line. Teams can consist of four different people or a single person may choose complete multiple legs of the race if they are able. Any competitor than completes three or more legs of the race is awarded an Iron Man Award!

Map of the 2014 ECTAthlon course courtesy of

The event is extremely equestrian friendly. Black Oak Stables, a private eventing barn on the edge of the trail system, very generously donates the use of their jump field as an area for the equestrians to warm up their horses prior to their leg of the race. Equestrians are also permitted to bring a buddy to ride with should they feel uncomfortable riding alone on the trails.

Me, Maggie, Cassidy, and my friend E after we finished our leg in the 2013 ECTAthlon. Photo from the ECTAthlon Facebook page.
Unlike the other portions of the race where competitors are aiming for the fastest time, the equestrian portion aims for an optimum time similar to a hunter pace; riders that are too fast or too slow are penalized. Additionally, as the "baton" is handed off (which has been pinnies or wristbands in past years) your mountain biking teammate must park their bike and walk over to their mounted horseback rider.

The organizers of the race are also very happy to assist people in creating their teams. You can email them your name if you're looking to race, but haven't put a team together. They'll match you with other eager racegoers looking to fill a slot to complete their team. It's a great way to meet new people!

My friend's horse, Cassidy, and I prior to our ECTAthlon ride in 2011. This was pre-Maggie!
As time goes on, both open and wooded spaces for recreation have diminished in favor of development it becomes increasingly important to both protect and share these spaces. If you're a trail rider you're likely very conscious of sharing the trails with other outdoor enthusiasts such as runners and mountain bikers. This race is a fantastic way to come together with other trail-users simply to celebrate and raise money for a great organization and the land that it helps to maintain. Thanks to the ECTA I have access to some incredibly gorgeous and well-maintained trails that my friends and I can hack to right from our barn!   

Off we go in the 2011 ECTAthlon!
I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the inaugural ECTAthlon as a rider and again in 2013 as I rode with a friend as her companion. I can tell you first hand that this is an incredibly fun and positive event. In 2011 I put together a team that consisted of myself as the horseback rider, my dad as the mountain biker, and two family friends as the runner and kayaker. My dad has come to plenty of my horse shows and soccer games, but I had never actually been on a team with him for anything so it was especially cool to watch him finish the mountain biking leg and have him pass me the baton. 

My 2011 team and supporters!
As I put together this put together this post, I've gotten myself really psyched up to participate this year. I can't emphasize enough how much of a fun time this event is. I guess I should start looking for a team now! The 2015 ECTAthlon is scheduled to take place on June 6th - I should  

E and Cassidy walk back to the trailers.
Would you participate in something like this? Is there already a race like this in your area?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Waiting for it to Click

Through the gauntlet.
I had a dressage lesson on Tuesday evening and...I'm not sure how I feel about it. I think it went well? I think we made some progress? If anything it solidifies the fact that dressage is confusing and hard. Not that I really needed a reminder of that.

During this lesson we worked on an exercise where I started Maggie off on a 15-20 m circle with the correct bend. Then I changed the direction we were tracking and went into a smaller 10 m circle but did not change the bend from the original larger circle. So we were counter bending on the smaller circle. Or at least trying to. We started out at the walk and when I went to change directions and keep the counter bend Maggie was like, "Whaaaaat?? I'm just gonna keep going the same way."

She has a chin sweat problem.
For whatever reason, we did better at the trot, but I was really struggling to keep all my aids straight in my mind...

So for correct bend, I need my inside leg at the girth and my outside leg behind it. My inside hand needs to hold contact to create the bend and flex inwards. My outside hand needs to hold contact too to keep her shoulder from drifting out, but I need to give with my elbow so that she can stretch through that side and allow the bend. 

Then when we counter bend... I keep the same hand position, but swap which leg is at the girth and which is behind it....or was it keep the legs the same and swap the hands? I think it was legs...

And don't forget about my seat bones...keep the outside one back and the inside one forward...or was it outside forward and inside back???

I stopped several times throughout the lesson and tried to get clarification from my instructor and I thought I understood her each time she'd explain it to me again. But then every time we went and tried to counter bend it seemed like I had one thing or another backwards. I really couldn't tell if I was getting the right response from Maggie. She's just as new to this as I am and I know that as green rider/green horse pair things are going to be a little harder and slower for us, but I really feel like I'm just missing something right now. I'm waiting for it all to come together and click.

Very tired.
Perhaps I need to take a step back and read some biomechanics books or articles or something? Something that'll help to solidify the basics. Anyone have any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tentative Show Schedule

Now that it's March and I'm riding my horse again, it doesn't seem so far-fetched for me to start thinking about the upcoming show season! Of course, if I'm being honest I've actually been thinking about it the entire winter, but I just haven't let myself really plan it out until now.

After our first outing last year.
Everything is  subject to change at this point considering it's still very early and a lot of resources don't have their dates published yet.

May 3rd: Rowley Riding & Driving Club Spring Show
This is a little local hunter/jumper show that is literally walking distance from my house and only a 5 minute trailer ride from the barn. I've never done this type of show with Maggie before as it's not really my thing in the first place, but it seems like a fun outing and couldn't be closer too us. One of my barn mates is planning on going too, so I expect it to simply be a fun outing all around. Classes I would enter could include: Hunt seat adult equitation, hunter pleasure adult, trail horse adult, and horsemanship over fences 2' and 2'3" - 2'6". (If any of you hunter folks out there could enlighten me as to what horsemanship is judged on that would be great...)

May 30th: Groton House Farm 2-Phase
This was my first outing with Maggie last year and aside from a very spooky first jump in stadium (which was a problem for a lot of competitors) it went very well. I would do either the Elementary division (which is what we did last year) or potentially try our luck as Beginner Novice. I think it would depend on what height we've been mostly schooling at that point. Elementary is 2'3" with an Intro dressage test (no canter) and BN is 2'7" with a BN dressage test.

June 21st: Groton House Farm Summer Classic
This could be our first 3-phase of the year and I should certainly hope that we get a chance to get out and XC school before hand! I would definitely do the Elementary division for this regardless of what level we showed at for the 2-Phase. I've heard that GHF's fences can be a little imposing even at these low levels. The course also covers a good amount of terrain - much more than the previous XC we've run at Pipestave.

July 5th: Green Acres Event Series
This is a venue we've never been before. It seems like it would be a pretty easy 45 minute drive straight up the highway. There are both Elementary and BN options for the 3-phase, so we'd have to see what we felt up to...

August 2nd: Green Acres Event Series
We could go to this event again if we liked it the first time! Maybe do Elementary at the first outing and then BN for the second outing?

September 20th: Groton House Farm Fall Classic
I would hope that we'd feel comfortable moving up to BN at this point if we haven't already.

October 10th: Course Brook Farm Horse Trials
This would also be a new venue for us. There are a couple 2-phases at this same farm offered earlier in the year that we could potentially go to if we wanted. It's just over an hour drive and it could be our first USEA recognized event. We'll see how that pans out!

So that's a rough list of some shows we could go to. There's still more that I want to cram in there somewhere including the summer and fall Pipestave Horse Trials (whose dates haven't been announced yet, plus a hunter pace or two (never done one before!), and maybe some jumper schooling shows where we can do multiple rounds and get some good practice in. We'll see how the spring shapes up and whether the snow ever melts and the footing dries out. Many of my goals for this year hinge on getting some jumping lessons and XC schools under my belt, so that's the first step! It sure is fun to plan ahead though!

Is anyone else planning their summer shows out already?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Slow, Steady, and on the Forehand

So our first ride back after taking February off was Tuesday and I wrote a little bit about that here, though I didn't critique it. To briefly recap, it was a nice short ride (~20 minutes) and I lunged her for just a few minutes first. She was super well behaved under saddle and felt really good.

On Thursday evening I rode with my friend from the barn and her horse, Rio. I don't know if it was because I didn't lunge her for a minute first or if she was just really excited that her friend was in the ring with her, but she was very bouncy! She did quite a bit of her trademark hopping/ bucking in place. When she does this it feels like she gets stuck and is trying to move forward, but can't, so the movement just comes out in the upwards direction. When this happens I try to keep her head up and moving forward. The remedy this time seemed to just be to let her canter in a 20 meter circle for countless laps. Usually she has trouble holding a canter for several laps, but not this time.

After I had let her canter to her heart's content and then take a walk break, she had cooled down a bit and we were able to do some nicer trotting and even finished with some stretchy circle. Overall, not a super productive ride, but It was fun to be riding with a friend and obviously Maggie was happy to be moving around!

Maggie's foamy lips + nipping Rio on the nose = New snip for Rio!

I rode again on Saturday and lunged Maggie just for a couple minutes prior to getting on. She was beautifully behaved and we had a really nice ride. I had forgotten my dressage whip, so I was having a little trouble trying to get enough energy from her to really step under herself, but regardless of that she went pretty consistently in a frame and was soft to my hands. I can tell that her balance is improving because when we go to change directions her rhythm stays much more consistent and she doesn't automatically throw her head up when I go to change rein - this is improvement! One of my barn friends was just finishing up lunging her horse as I was starting to ride, so I asked her to take a little video. We got approximately 27 seconds of video before it automatically stopped recording because I had no more space on my phone.

Some stills from the video:

I'd like to eventually get her poll up higher and get her stepping under herself more (so basically, I'd like to get her off her forehand), but hey, she's traveling in a consistent rhythm here and in decent balance - so I'll take it! The strength to really carry herself behind will come with time. I'm also really happy with where my lower leg is when I'm riding on the flat in my dressage saddle and it looks like I'l sitting up a tiny it straighter too, though I could still use to relax my shoulders. 

Sunday my friends and I made plans to ride again. This has been a great weekend in terms of weather (it's been almost 40 degrees which feels amazing right now) and if our outdoor ring wasn't completely covered in snow I would have loved to ride outside. I swear once it gets to around 40 degrees it smells like springtime... Anyway....

We all rode in the indoor and Maggie was little excitable at first. I did not lunge to begin with since I rode the day before (and there were others in the ring). I think perhaps she just starts out a little more scatter-brained when she's not the only one in the ring. She acts similarly in warmup at shows sometimes, so I think that makes sense? She settled in after a couple laps and seemed to be holding herself pretty consistently. We mostly worked just on the track because it's hard to do a lot of circles or later work with several people in that little ring. She was consistent and rhythmic in both direction again as well, which was nice.  

"Gimme dis"
We cantered in both directions and she picked up the correct lead every time - good girl! Her canter is still a little strung out in general (again, because she is lacking the muscle for it right now), but it does feel like it's improving. At the very end of the ride I asked her for the canter from the walk (which we really haven't worked on yet) and she tried very hard! It took her about 3 trot steps before she picked up the canter, but she definitely knew what I was asking and I was really pleased with that! 

It really really, really great to be back in the saddle ESPECIALLY when the temperature is above freezing! I scheduled a dressage lesson for this coming Tuesday, so I hope to get back to real work soon. I don't think Maggie has lost a beat since our last lesson, but I feel like I may have. My muscle memory just isn't quite there yet for some of these dressage basics.

Oh, and Maggie and/or her neighbor have now beavered through the entire top board of their stall walls:


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

...And Then I Rode My Horse!

That feeling when you're so excited to be riding that you try and take a selfie with your horse...
The weekends have been pretty busy as of late, what with all the shoveling and general property maintenance that everyone has had to do. This past weekend though was a litter quieter, at least in that respect. I didn't have to rake the roof and I didn't have to shovel (it's a Christmas miracle!) I did spend a small chunk of time chipping frozen poo out of Maggie's stall though. That was fun. But still, I had to time do a few things that have fallen by the wayside in the past week. Like, oh you know, pay some attention to my horse herself instead of the inanimate objects around her such as the barn roof or her stall or the area just outside her stall.

So the first thing I did on Saturday was bring Maggie out of her stall and put her on to the crossties. I stripped her blanket and gave her a nice grooming, which I think she was appreciative of because her neck seemed quite itchy. The hair on her belly had gotten a little matted somehow though, and as I tried to curry that out she was not at all appreciative - she shot me some seriously dirty looks and even lifted her hind leg at me. I scratched her some more on the neck to make up for it.

And then I actually took her outside the barn. It's not like she's been cooped up a stall for four weeks since she has good-sized a 24/7 runout. However, much of the runout hasn't been run in since the snow is up to her belly so she's still been fairly limited in terms of movement. So taking her for a little walk outside of her stall (even if it was just up and down the driveway) was very exciting! She was very well behaved for one lap up and then I think she realized that she could actually move her feet freely which was very exciting so she started jigging. I normally hate jigging and try not to let horses get away with it, but I really couldn't blame her this time so I picked up my own pace and went with it. It was fine until she started pulling me toward the manure pile and other snowbanks where there were some dropped hay scraps. I had absolutely no traction under my feet so she was essentially pulling me along with her face and not listening to me. Should have put her in the rope halter. So enough was enough after that - back into her stall/runout she went while I did chores.

"Look, a snow bank!"

The barn owner finally decided it was time to clear the other end of he barn roof.
In my EN post about how eventers are surviving the snow I said "I haven’t ridden my horse in almost a month now, and I think we’re both going slowly insane." Maggie's insanity has become evident in the past two weeks as she has begun chewing down the wall between her and her QH friend.

Well done, horses, well done.
My husband and I rebuilt this wall last summer because the old one was falling apart at the seams. Up until around two weeks ago there were zero missing bars, but as my friends and I muck stalls throughout the week we've been finding a few on the floor each day. So now we already know what our first spring project is going to be. I'm thinking we should put some metal brackets between each of the bars this time around.

Sunday was March 1st which means NO MORE FEBRUARY! You may recall that when the storm storms started (literally) piling on I called it quits on renting the indoor arena for the month of February. As much as I have missed riding for the past month and as bored as poor Maggie has been getting, I think it was a good call. Much of my spare time was spent simply trying to help maintain the property among all the snow. And when you weigh getting to ride versus having your barn roof collapse over your horse, the choice is pretty clear. Another perk of waiting it out for March: one of the other boarders shoveled the path over to the indoor during her school vacation week. I do do feel kind of guilty for taking advantage of her work...but then again I didn't have a whole week on my hands...

So, Sunday March 1st, I made it a priority to bring Maggie over to the indoor! I put her rope halter on her for a little more control while leading her over there, but she kept her cool. I brought a lunge line with me, however once we got over there and I realized we had the ring to ourselves I just took her off thee lead and let her run. And boy did she RUN. Like, pretending to be a thoroughbred run.


Such trot. Wow.
Needless to say, she had fun and was happy to move her feet on flat ground. 

I gave her Monday off, but last night I tacked her up, brought her to the indoor and then put her on the lunge for a couple minutes.

She was surprisingly well behaved on the lunge, though she certainly wasn't lacking any energy. Also, there is apparently a rabbit living in the big square bales being stored at the end of the indoor. Maggie spotted it.

To think, whenever she'd give the bales the hairy eyeball when riding earlier in the season I had told her to knock it off because there was nothing in there! Guess I was wrong!

...And then I rode my horse! It's only been a month, but then again it's been a whole month since I've ridden! Know what I mean? I'm not going to critique my ride for two reasons: we didn't really work on anything specific and it was just for fun. Maggie was super, felt great, and we definitely had a fun little ride. On my part, this says it all: