Sunday, August 26, 2012

Every ride should be this much fun!

Hubby and I went roading with the hounds again today. They were short on whippers-in and the MFH was traveling, so instead of staying out of the way of the huntsmistress and hounds, we were actively encouraged to help set up a perimeter and discourage the hounds from leaving the property in case they caught the scent of anything. It was a good thing too - they flushed three rabbits, and we were actively engaged in holding a perimeter twice.

Saga now knows exactly what's going down when we unload him at the huntsmistress's barn. His ears were on high alert as we tacked and groomed.  Fortunately, he was pretty chill once I got on, and was cool to hangout chatting. Naturally, Oberon just looked around for more foods.

The hunt started off going counterclockwise from the kennels. As we made our way down along the northern fenceline, the hounds flushed a rabbit, which headed straight for us. The leader of second flight and I got there first, and did our best to stop the hounds, but they were quite keen on their quarry and didn't listen to our shouts of "LEAVE IT" and "GET TO HER". About half the pack made it past us before the whippers-in and ATV got there, and there was much excitement as they laid about with rat shot and hunting whips (note, I've never seen anyone hit a dog, it's just used for noise to distract them). We were in among the hounds and the ensuing chaos, and I remember thinking that Saga was being SO GOOD about all the commotion. He went where I asked, didn't flinch at all, and just sort of waded in and did his job. He's such a good boy!

After that excitement, we rounded up the hounds (well, I got out of the way while others rounded up the hounds) and got them back to the huntsmistress. We continued our ride over to the southern fenceline, when another jackrabbit popped up between us and the hounds. The rabbit was downwind of them and I'm not sure if they saw it, but when we started yelling "rabbit" and got into position to potentially head the hounds off, they figured it out and started going after it. Fortunately, it was much too fast for them and they left off the chase pretty quickly.

Because the hounds were cueing off of things that move instead of scent, they were put up for the day. As usual, we got to go play on the XC fences. I'm still sticking to the smaller ones, but I'm definitely feeling much more confident over them. Saga is staying much more balanced under me for longer, and I can tell he's getting more fit. I, unfortunately, can't keep up with him. He's getting really strong when there are horses in front of us, and the waterford that I'm using just doesn't give me enough brakes. I'm thinking of bitting up to a kimberwicke, or possibly a pelham with a converter on it. One of the other riders even commented that I'm so little and he's just yanking me around. It's embarrassing not to be able to stop your horse, you know? It's also way embarrassing to have to pull off because you are gasping for air. I HATE jogging, but I'm going to have to do something to get more fit. Sure, I can buck hay with the best of them, but that's clearly not going to be enough if I want the fast ride up in front.

Anyway, the XC fences. We did our usual little logs, and did the training-level doghouse into the water with a log coming out. There were a couple of other training fences that I wanted to try, but there was nothing really straightforward (that is, not funny-looking, and either on a flat area or uphill) that caught my eye. Next time. ;)

Oberon is also getting more confident, and for some reason today was really putting forth a lot of effort on the jumps. Well, OK, some of the time. This one 2'6 log pile he cantered up to, broke to a trot about 2 strides out, walked about 1 stride out, and then delicately hopped over from a walk. It was quite tidy, he didn't touch a thing, but he was clearly going over it in his own time, thank-you-very-much. Goofball. He also launched off the bank (normally he just drops down), although his effort up was less than stellar (more of a climb than a jump, really). I think he just needs more time and more miles - this is really only his 15th or so ride over fences, so I'd say he's doing pretty damn well all things considered. And he takes good care of hubby, which is really the important part.

Oberon and hubby on the final jump of the day - a coop on a fenceline. Not too shabby!

Next weekend is more roading and possibly some trails... we'll have to see what the plan is. I am SO looking forward to it!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

We are officially empty nesters

Yesterday afternoon, we helped move Kiddo #2 into his dorm room. Although he's going to the university here in town, we wanted him to experience being on his own - hence the dorm room. Theoretically, he'd packed everything, but the more we unpacked the more we discovered he was missing. We have quite a lengthy list of things to bring him in the next few days, but we're holding off and trying to avoid the mad rush that is move-in weekend.  After that, for the most part, we won't see Kiddo #2 until his birthday in October, and then again for Thanksgiving. Unless, of course, he needs to do laundry or wants a home-cooked meal or something. ;)

With Kiddo #1 at college somewhere Far, Far Away, that leaves us home. Alone. With just the dogs, cats, horses, and chickens for company. Which is actually quite a lot of company.

We considered what to do to celebrate, even though it was pretty sad to leave Kiddo #2 at the dorm. We thought about going out to eat at some nice restaurant, but remembered that we are paying for 2 kids in college, so a nice dinner was probably out. We opted for pulling a couple of steaks out of the freezer and having a bottle of wine from the wine rack.

We did, however choose to eat dinner nekkid on the couch. Just because we could.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Big Bay Boys: Very different rides

This weekend, I rode both Saga and Oberon back-to-back on Saturday, but just rode Saga on Sunday. I have decided that it's prudent to ride Oberon first, since he requires more energy on my part, while Saga is more forward and a little bit easier.

Instead of using my 1/4 inch Tom Thumb spurs with Oberon, I borrowed FuzzyPony's 3/4 inch spurs. WOW, what a difference! Oberon is usually very easy to get to do a walk-canter transition, but we've really been having issues with the trot-canter transition. He has a lovely medium trot that he is happy to do all day, but cantering from the trot is another story. Unless, apparently, you have Serious Spurs. This time, I just turned my toe out a bit, poked him in the side and... Instant Canter! We had super-clean trot-canter upward transitions, and our downward transitions were pretty balanced too. Awesome!

I also discovered that Oberon has some really serious lateral buttons. You have to press hard to make them work, but maaaaan... shoulder in, haunches in, and gorgeous, gorgeous leg yields. We just came 'round the corner, I looked where I was going and dropped the weight into the leading stirrup, and BAM! I have never gotten that much relaxed, forward, and actual sideways movement before. It was a fantastic feeling and I could have done it all day!

Coming round and carrying himself was another thing though. I felt like I was absolutely hauling on the reins to get him to really bend his poll. I also felt like I was sort of dragging him around the circle instead of having him carry me around the circle. More leg didn't really help, he just sort of got more forward and heavier on his forehand. I did a bunch of walk-trot-halt-walk-halt-trot etc. transitions, but as soon as we'd do more than a half-circle, he'd just sort of get motoring and blew off my half-halt requests to come back together. Eeek! I'm really not used to riding a heavy horse, so if anyone out there has got some tips I'd love to hear them. I'm hoping to get a couple of dressage lessons in the near future to get some help with this. I really feel like Oberon has all the pieces to put together a nice first-level test this fall, and I'd love to give it a go if I can figure out how to make it work.

As you might imagine, Saga is a very different ride. He's also hard to balance back, because he's rather heavily built in the shoulder and built a touch downhill. However, he's much more forward and has a tendency to get somewhat curled up, suck back, and "hop" into a canter if he doesn't want to put forth the effort to carry himself on his hind end in the trot. At the canter, he tends to get really strung out and motor along if I don't insist on him balancing. It can be nice one moment and fall to pieces literally in a stride. In contrast, Oberon is much more balanced - I just have to keep him going!

On Saturday, Saga and I had a serious argument. I asked for some leg yield and he completely blew me off - head up, no lateral motion at all. I tried again and really focused on keeping my body correct, and again, nothing. I took my foot out of the stirrup and literally booted him over (using a dressage whip just makes him suck back) and he finally got that I was serious. He knows how to move off my leg, but apparently I have not been asking for enough of a response lately. We have both gotten pretty complacent, and it's definitely my fault for letting it happen.

My second ride on Saga (on Sunday), I worked a lot on transitions. Our walk-trot transitions feel really good - he feels like he's puffing up under me and stepping off into the trot. Pretty much all of our other transitions are a wreck. Picking up the reins from free walk to working walk results in llama-ness. Trot to canter involves several running steps, unless I really work hard to balance him to make a good transition happen. Downward transitions are hollow and crappy. Soooo...

On the free walk/working walk transitions I focused on keeping an inside bend with my leg, then slowly walking my fingers up the reins. And resistance or loss of rhythm and I'd softly close my leg. That seemed to help a lot (duh! you don't take up the rein without an appropriate amount of leg to counter. basic dressage, anyone?). On the canter transitions, concentrating on keeping my seat tucked under me seemed to help prevent him from falling behind my leg and running into the transition. We also did a couple of leg yields from centerline to B or E, canter transition at the letter, 1/2 20 meter circle, back to trot down the long side, turn down centerline and repeat. He was anticipating a lot, so I tried to mix things up with changes of direction, 10 meter circles or serpentines, anything to get him paying attention. I think that's another element contributing to our poor transitions - since I haven't been very demanding of him, he's really quite dull to my aids. I need to mix it up more so that we both focus, and not take anything that's crappy.

In the canter, I focused on keeping him balanced enough that I felt like I could do a 15 meter circle at any point. We even did some counter-canter on the right lead, which is his worse side (and the side he falls out on). He actually stayed pretty balanced, but I feel like he could come more from behind and not plow along so much on his forehand. But, it's coming along. The lateral trot work was much better on the second ride - he was much more responsive and stayed more balanced into and out of the laterals as well as during the laterals themselves. Obviously things are not "fixed," but at least I think we are paying better attention to each other. He's not going to "give" me the good stuff if I ride poorly, so he'll keep me honest and on my game. :)

Do you ride horses that are significantly different from each other? How do you tailor your rides to each?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dear Murphy, you are a mean-ass bastard and your "laws" suck

Long-time readers will know that when my husband leaves town, stuff breaks. Not minor stuff, like the TV (which we never use) stops working or something. No, I'm talking big, honkin' oh-fer-fffs-sakes problems. For example:
There's a laundry list of other items too, from long ago when we lived in our old house in Suburbia. The gas heat was cut off on the coldest night of the year, I ran over a stick with the car and it totally messed up the front steering... it would almost be amusing if it were happening to someone else. But somehow it's become Murphy's law that something huge breaks when the hubby leaves town, and usually the further away he goes, the bigger the problem.

I'm sure by now you're wondering what the heck has happened this time. As luck would have it, there's a massive water leak somewhere under the guest house.

Water is not supposed to be here.

Lake at the back east corner of the house. Awesome.

More water. I do NOT want to see my water bill this month!

This is where I was hoping the problem was - a coupling where the trench is in the first pic. After letting it dry out for a couple of days, I unburied the coupling and turned the water back on - that coupling was bone dry.

I looked around the house, hoping to find the leak in an accessible area. See, the pipe runs under the house for its entire length, then runs along the back wall to the kitchen and bath. The house is pier-and-beam, with less than one foot of clearance under it - which meant that if the leak was under the house, there would be no way to fix the pipe and we'd have to re-run the entire line.

 By some miracle I found a leak near the kitchen window. It was the hot water pipe, which I discovered when I put my hand in near-scalding water. I called the plumber out*, and he dug out the pipe, cut out the problem section, and applied the pressure coupling you see here.

We turned the water back on, and the pressure coupling appeared to hold. I left the water on overnight... only to come out to even MORE water the next morning. This time, the water was cold, and it was clearly not coming from the new coupling.

Long story short, we had the entire water line rerun. Everything is now tidy, dry, and functioning normally. For the next 50 years, I hope.

Hubby is never, ever allowed to go out of town again. Especially not to Patagonia, which is where he's going next week.

Anybody care to guess what's gonna break then? I'm taking bets...

* This makes it sound simple. I initially called THREE plumbers, none of whom called me back. Then I called my across-the-street neighbor for recommendations. I got the first plumber out, who told me he didn't dig. I paid him the fee for the service call, then *I* dug out the first coupling. When that was dry, I called my neighbor back to see if he had any other recommendations. We got a friend-of-a-friend plumber out, who replaced the hot water coupling at 6 p.m. on a weeknight. When that didn't solve the problem, I called him back out, and he re-ran the line over the weekend. There's something to be said for having neighbors who know people! I am quite indebted to them!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to get really, really, REALLY dirty

Cash here.

Being a white horse is hard. It's easy to get sunburned, and the bugs seem to bother me more than the other horses. So I do my best foil both sunburn and bugs by being as dirty as possible. I thought I'd share my tips and trick with everyone so that they too can be as delightfully mud-covered as I am!

First off, the best time to get dirty is immediately after a bath. Mum doesn't think so, but when you're still damp, the dirt sticks much better and coats more evenly.

Next, it's very important to choose a spot with good dirt. You want it nice loose dirt, with no rocks in it. Little rocks are awfully lumpy, and besides that they don't stick well, even to a wet horse.  You also want to pick a spot near the middle of the field, since you definitely don't want to accidentally roll into a tree or a fence or anything.

In rolling, technique is everything. Flipping over is a must. Let me demonstrate:

Perfect rolling spot with loose dirt selected (notice how revoltingly clean I am in this picture). 

First off, grind the dirt into you neck and face.

Get up a bit of momentum...

... then flip to the other side.

Even though Saga is photobombing this pic, you can see the lovely spots on my belly. Aren't they handsome?

Be sure to wiggle around a lot on the other side too. This ensures an even coating.

Remember to sit up a bit so you can get dirt rub dirt onto your belly too. Notice in this picture that I haven't really gotten the first side all that well... I have to flip back over to do it again.

Make sure to cover any spots that you might have missed on the first go. 

You might need to grind your mane into the dirt too. Mum especially loves it when I make mud dreadlocks. Those are her absolute favorite!

Remember, if you flail, you get more dirt on.

Gotta flip back over again to make sure the second side again. Always remember to do both sides evenly!

Grind in that last bit of dirt...

... and then it's time to get up for the finishing touch...

... a good shake! You want to get any loose bits off, 'cause they are kind of tickly.

See? It's hard to get dirtier than this (but note in the background that Saga's about to try).

Rolling is like peeing - it's contagious!

He's got a good mane-grinding technique...

But he can't quite get the full flip. Besides that, he's brown. Even if the dirt sticks, it won't be nearly as attractive as it is when it's on me. 

Being white does have its advantages, after all!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tough love for a horsey friend

Recently, I’ve been interacting with a horsey friend of mine who doesn’t own a horse, but takes lessons pretty regularly. I’ve offered to let her ride several of mine (she’s a nice rider), but the ensuing drama surrounding Riding In General has really turned me off. I’ve tried to talk to her about some things that, IMHO, are really wrong with her barn and with her instructor. My friend defends the situation, even as she admits that there are problems. It’s like an abusive relationship – she won’t get out, but she won’t stand up for herself or what she knows to be right.

So I'm going to rant, because I am frustrated with the situation. I’m going to try writing this as a letter so I don't go too far off the deep end. You see, my friend reads this blog sometimes, so if she stumbles across this, I want her to know that I’m writing this because I care about her, because I know what it’s like to be poor but want to ride SO BAD that you can taste it, because I know what it’s like to see things happening around you that you don’t agree with but feel powerless to change. Maybe she’ll read this and think differently, maybe she'll never speak to me again, I don’t know. Maybe we've all been here?

So here goes.

Dear Friend,

First off: You are a very nice rider, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Sure, we all have things that we need to work on – I have been riding for an embarrassingly long time, and there’s a TON of bad habits I have that need to be fixed (check out my sexy “chicken elbows”). Even so, that doesn’t mean that anyone gets to tell me that “I suck” or “I need a lot of help” in a condescending, insulting way. Instructors do not get to yell or scream at me, unless it’s because I’m across the arena and won’t hear otherwise. I am a paying customer; I am taking lessons by my own free will. I expect to be treated with respect, and I expect constructive criticism about areas that I need to improve.   It is not worth any amount of money, under any circumstances, to be insulted and demeaned. You shouldn’t let it happen to you either. It’s undermining your self-confidence, and that’s just not OK. 

Secondly: There is no reason EVER to ride a lame horse, unless you are explicitly instructed to do so by a vet (e.g. working out a stiffness, rehab, etc). If the horse you are riding, who is normally a well-trained, reliable equine citizen, is stopping at fences, spooking, bolting, and spinning for “no reason,” your antennae should go up. EVEN MORE SO if you and your trainer KNOW the horse has had a history of undiagnosed lameness. Granted, the horse is not yours. I also realize that you may not know much about lameness or how to diagnose and treat it. But now is the time to educate yourself. Has the horse been x-rayed? Ultrasounded? Your trainer tells you that it’s been “seen by the vet and farrier and they can’t find anything wrong,” whatever that means. Well guess what, just because there’s no diagnosis doesn’t mean that there’s nothing wrong. A horse can’t speak for itself and tell you it hurts, it can only show you in ways it knows how, to avoid the pain. That’s why you’re seeing those behaviors. 

 If the horse is lame, DON’T RIDE IT. If your trainer tells you to ride it anyway, tell her you won’t, and insist on another mount. I realize that you feel like you have to ride whatever she gives you and you don’t have a choice, but you ALWAYS have a choice. It’s your money – don’t throw it away on rides on lame horses. You can choose not to ride, even if you really REALLY want to (and believe me, I get that). The horse’s welfare should always come first, and I frankly can’t believe that any reputable trainer would have someone riding a horse that’s not sound. That’s just not right. You should question why your trainer is allowing lame horses to be ridden. By continuing to ride the horse, you are condoning your trainer’s decision to allow a lame horse to be ridden. Just stop already, mmkay? There are other horses out there that are sound and happy in their jobs. You don’t have to be a party to making this one more uncomfortable than he already is.

Finally: In life, communication is key. If someone is not communicating with you, instead of getting mad, be the adult, pick up the phone, and give them a call. Straighten out the situation BEFORE it has a chance to blow itself out of proportion.  I realize that even with the best of communication, messages get crossed and not everybody’s understanding is the same, but if the drama is avoidable, DO something about it. Watching it unfold is not cool, and doing nothing – or even encouraging it - is worse. Why create drama for the sake of the drama when a short conversation will get everyone on the same page. 

And speaking of communication, honesty really is the best policy. Tell your trainer that you’re taking occasional dressage lessons. Tell her you might take someone else’s horse to a show. If you feel like you can’t tell her that, ask yourself why. IMHO, you should be able to take lessons with whomever you want, in whatever discipline you want. If you wanna go take lessons on a cutting horse, why would your regular trainer object? Time in the saddle is time in the saddle. Besides, you should be able to tell her what you learned while you were riding elsewhere. Maybe another instructor told you something that really clicked and helped improve something. That’s a good thing to be shared. If you have to keep it secret… again, ask yourself why, and if that’s really a situation you want to continue with long-term.

As your friend, I really want to be supportive of your riding. I’ve offered to let you ride my horses, hauled horses to lessons for you, and even offered to let you show. But I’m having a hard time when you say you want to do one thing with my horses, then, when your trainer crooks her finger, change plans on me at the last minute. I’m also having a really hard time with the secrets, and with the way your trainer treats both you and her horses.  Normally, I’d say it’s not my business how you interact with your trainer, but when you tell me about how badly things are going, I worry about you. It also becomes my business because when you ride or show my horses, I get caught in the middle of a situation I don’t want to be in. I don’t enjoy the drama even a tiny little bit.  So while I want to support you, I need a little commitment from you, a little communication, a little reassurance that I (and my horses) won’t be tossed over at the last moment. And that means that you need to stand up for what is right for you and the horses you ride, and you need to follow through with your commitments.

Let me know when you’re ready to do that, and I’ll still be here for you. Because I really do want to see you be successful – and most importantly, happy – with your riding.

PS. If you're wondering why I haven't sent my friend this letter, I have actually had all the conversations with her already, over IM or in person. This is just sort of the "wrapping up" of my thoughts.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? What did you do? How did it end?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A day in the life of me, Elias, THE DOG

You might think that a dog like me has a really easy life, but I assure you that I'm actually a hard-working farm dog.

The alarm goes off at 6 a.m., 7 days a week. I have to get Mum out of bed every morning. Sometimes she has a hard time getting up.

We're to the barn by 6:10 or so, to feed the horses. This time of year, there's only a hint of sunrise.

I have to inspect the feedroom for extra snacks while the horses eat breakfast.

 I know I'm not supposed to run in the barn. See? I'm being Very Good.

While the horses are eating, we muck.

Mom's pretty quick, but I'm always at least a little ahead of her.

When we're done, we go in for breakfast. I require mine with a touch of chicken stock, but sometimes there are pieces that don't get any of the good stuff on them. I have to pick those out so Mom knows they aren't any good. 

Most days, Mom goes to "werk" for most of the day. While she's gone, I have to get my beauty sleep. Sometimes she runs a little late and I have to give her a hint to head out the door. This is me going to bed early so she'll leave. 

Of course I also guard the house while she's gone. There are lots of people that walk by every day, and I have to be vigilant!

When Mom gets home from "werk", we have to go check the mail and close the front gate.

Next we have to feed the horses again, and of course muck.

Tonight we also had to go to the feed store in the truck. I LOVE riding in the truck! Mom makes me sit in the back seat, but I have to look over the front seat and keep an eye out for crazy drivers.

It's an exhausting job!

After the horses are taken care of, Mom makes dinner. My job is to watch the floor in case anything jumps off the counter and needs to be eaten. We can't have a dirty floor, after all!

Sometimes Auntie M comes over and tortures me a little bit. I put up with it 'cause she gives good butt scratches.

After dinner, Mom has been watching this show called "Glee". She only watches it when Dad is gone, 'cause Dad doesn't like it. I think the plot line is dumb, but the singing is OK. Also, Mom was eating carrots while watching TV, and I mooched a couple (that's my nose in the picture).

I wonder if what we'd watch if Dad were home and Mom were gone. Maybe something more manly? I've heard that White Fang is good.

 After a long day, I have to wait up until Mom comes to bed. Sometimes she doesn't go to bed on time, but I hang out until she's safely tucked in.

Then I guard the house all night. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In which I convince my H/J trainer to come over to the dark side

Today Fuzzypony, my H/J trainer Paige, and I went roading with the hounds. We also got in a number of XC fences while we were at it, and man did we have a BLAST!

Roading was significantly calmer this time than last. For the most part, we stayed even with the hounds for about 30 minutes, helping to set up a perimeter around where they were working. We got some good trots and canters in, and Saga was much happier right behind the leader than he was last week at the back of the pack last week. We had another moment of excitement at the end where the hounds flushed another jackrabbit and we tried to head them off, but we were really too far away to be of any use so after a brief uphill gallop, we pulled off and let the whippers-in go after them. Oberon lumbered along gamely enough, and Paige seemed happy to have a horse that didn't need to be at the front of the pack. I asked her a couple of times if he was fast enough for her and she said yes - I know he can keep up and really get going, so I think she was holding him back a bit. Totally fine for someone who is used to being in an arena all the time!

After they put the hounds up, we went off to do some XC fences. I was feeling pretty brave after yesterday's fantastic jump school, and opted to do a few of the easier Training level fences. Saga and I were not as balanced and together as we could have been, and I'm learning that he gets like that when he gets tired. If we want to do any eventing this fall or next spring, we are really going to have to work on fitness for both of us!

When in doubt, go for the really long spot?

We started off playing in the water jump. Oberon was pretty sure that he was DONE, and Paige had a lot to do convincing him to go forward to the jumps. He did actually jump them all, he just sort of trotted up to them and flopped over. *Facepalm*

I did a Training-level "doghouse" style jump into the water, then a log coming out. Saga really made the effort over the doghouse but lost momentum in the water. Oh well, he gets an "A" for effort over the element that really counted.

Next we headed off to do a couple of logs. Once Paige convinced Oberon that it was time to jump, he was really nice and steady to the fences. He's jumped all these before with the hubby, but a refresher course was good for him.

Next up was the stairsteps that I had caught my eye last week. We came around, but about five stride out Saga threw his head up in the air and said "OMGWTFBBQ!" He veered off to the left, but I managed to stop him before he got past it. We went up the side of the first step instead of the main part. I really think he just looked at it and had no idea what he was supposed to do - stair steps look kind of like a solid wall when you're coming at them. We came back around again, and the second time through he jumped it quite well. There was a bit of a shuffle in between, but he got up it well enough. Good boy!


Awwww yeah.

After that success, I was ready to call it a day since I knew that Saga was tired. Paige wanted to see if Oberon could do the stairstep, but from about 50 feet away he decided he didn't want to even get near the side of it. I gave her a lead and we walked across the middle of the first step, parallel to the jump. On the far side, I went down a tiny hill, then turned around, expecting to see her following after. Instead, Oberon had taken exception to a clump of grass (!?!?!) and was handily backing away from it - right toward the step down! It was one of those slow-motion things you wish you had on tape - he got to the edge, backed down the 2'6 drop, and then nonchalantly brought his front end down with him. Luckily, Paige had the forethought to grab his neck, and they landed tidily, with Oberon still staring at the suspicious clump of grass. We all agreed that's the first time we'd ever seen a horse do a drop backwards, LOL!

After that bit of fun, we decided that Oberon needed a little practice with single banks, so we went over to the bank up/down that I did last week. Paige picked up a nice canter, and all was going so well, until...

My favorite part is when Oberon realizes that the grass is RIGHT AT NOSE LEVEL! You can see his ears flick forwards and he's like "Oooh! FOODS!" just before he decides to heave himself to the top of it. We were all laughing at his antics.

Paige turned him around and went down the bank, which he did quite handily.

Nice and tidy.

We decided to call it a day after that, and watched some of the other riders do a couple of Training-level fences. Once Saga is a bit more fit, I think we'll be able to do a few more of those, too. :)

On the way home, Paige informed me that I'm not allowed to do the 2'3 hunters anymore. Something about watching us do those Training-level XC fences, I guess? She's also planning to look at her calendar to find the next available Sunday so she can come back, and is contemplating which of her horses might work for hunting.

I HAVE BROUGHT HER TO THE DARK SIDE! MUAHAHAHAHAAA! And I didn't even need any cookies!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fab jumping lesson on The Big Bay Boys

Hubby is out of town (in Alaska, where it is NOT 102 degrees, the lucky man), so I took both Saga and Oberon for a jumping lesson this morning. I figured Oberon would require more energy to ride, so I hopped on him first, and boy am I glad I did!

Oberon started out very looky in the arena. The roll-top and the stone wall were both horse-eating objects that required careful inspection. There were also some piles of new arena footing that were somewhat suspicious, so our trot warm-up was less than straight and together. We sort of swerved around the arena a couple of times, not really spooking but definitely looking at stuff. Eventually he decided that it wasn't worth the effort and settled down. When we went to canter, I ended up pulling him back to a walk and asking for a walk-canter transition, which he does very well. His trot-canter transition tends to flop on the forehand and end up with some running, so I need to get with my dressage instructor and work on that a LOT.

The thing about Oberon is that he doesn't ever feel like he's really going anywhere at the canter. If he does get forward, he sort of flattens out his stride, which is not good for jumping. He also likes to chip in to the fences if he's not right on stride. Lucky for me I've been working on waiting to the base of the fence for oh... the past two years!... so I'm getting pretty good at staying with the horse even if the spot is less than perfect. I can also usually now tell when it's really going to suck, but am still not to the point of being able to reliably fix it before it falls apart.

This is the first lesson I've had since the hunter show, and after staring at the pictures of me jumping for faar too long, I knew what I wanted to focus on. I concentrated on keeping my wrists against his neck instead of my knuckles, and keeping my elbows in. And you know what? My problem with popping up too quickly after the fence magically disappeared! I think that I was somehow compromising my balance on the landing side with my hands in chicken-wing knuckle-in position, and I was having to sit up really early as a result. Biomechanics are so interesting!

One thing about today is that Oberon was much more respectful of the fences than he has been in the past. I think the solid XC fences that we've been doing have really helped with that. He also requires a huge amount of leg strength to keep him going. I felt like my leg was on him constantly, whereas with Saga I'll use my leg to support him when needed. Using my leg all the time meant that I was sitting more in the saddle than when I ride Saga. Not sure if that's good or bad, it's just different.

I did manage to get a little video of us at the very end. I'm still arching my back far too much, which means my core is not engaged. I think my hands are a little better though. One thing at a time!

Next up was Saga. I was having serious reservations about doing two horses back-to-back - it was already 95 degrees out and I'm not in any kind of shape. Lucky for me, Saga's the "easy" one, so it wasn't so bad. We warmed up very nicely in trot - Paige said we looked "pleasant". It's amazing how much nicer things are when you're not trying to run your poor horse off his feet! Our canter transitions were still kind of sticky the first time, but he got better as the ride went on. He's definitely still falling in on his right shoulder - that's something I really need to spend some time on in the walk and trot to try to build him up so that we don't careen around corners when jumping. He did canter very nicely - better to the left than to the right, where he loses his balance and falls in.

We warmed up over the verticals that Oberon had finished on (LOL!) and then we did a little course. And DAMN, we were ON! Steady all the way around (yes, I counted one-TWO, one-TWO the whole time. What's your point?) and we got to the base of every fence. We missed the left-to-right lead change (same one we missed at the show) but did a simple change quite tidily in the corner. His balance was great, I was steady over the fences, and I didn't pop up after. Interestingly, he also landed in a much more balanced frame when I stayed down after the fence, which is something we've really been struggling with. When we'd finished the course, I patted him like crazy and told him what a good boy he was, then looked back at the jumps - which had all magically gone up to 2'9. Paige was smiling and said "Wow, that looked like a really nice hunter round!" Not that I wanna do hunters, but that's a pretty good compliment considering where we were not that long ago!

I asked about teaching Saga to do flying changes, which he doesn't currently do (or if he does, I don't know how to ask). I pointed out that if I'm going to do a few hunter schooling shows, at least I can *try* to get the leads, since that's part of what knocked us out of the ribbons last time. Paige said we should start by asking him to do them over the fence, gave instructions for how to do so, and then I gave it a go:

In my efforts to get the lead change, I completely forgot about pretty much everything else, and left poor Saga to save my sorry ass crawl over the fence. He's SUCH a good boy!

I sort of managed to redeem myself on the next line though. We came in a little awkwardly, but I managed to sit up and ride in between, so the second fence was pretty clean. We even got the right lead on the landing after the last fence, which is his hard lead. Guess I just have to ask correctly!

Oh, and I captured this still from the video, of the last fence.

Hellz yeah.

Paige did ask if we wanted to try the 2'6 or 2'9 hunter classes next weekend. I told her I'd think about it. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Need a bit of advice about some unmentionables

Last weekend when we went roading with the hounds, I wore Kerrits Dry-fit breeches, a dry-fit polo shirt, and a (supposedly) dry-fit sports bra. It was hot, we all sweated buckets, and my clothes were pretty much soaked through by the time I got off.

It's a two-hour drive home from where we ride with the hounds, so I had plenty of time to evaporate under Grendel's (my truck) super-cold AC. Twenty minutes into the drive, my breeches and shirt were dry, but my sports bra was still soaked through (not to mention cold, clammy, and gross) by the time I got home. "Eeew" doesn't even begin to cover it.

So, ladies, what's your favorite dry-fit sports bra? I (ahem) don't need tons of support, and I'd prefer something that zips up the front. But at this point, the MOST IMPORTANT thing is that the damn thing is actually breathable and dries out. 'Cause there is nothing worse than cold, sweat-soaked clothes stuck to you. For hours.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rockin' XC schooling / roading with the hounds

This morning, we headed back to do some roading with the hounds, and jump a few XC fences while we were there. We rode on the huntsmaster's and huntsmistress's course where we schooled jumps two weeks ago. There were about 6 other folks that had hauled in, mostly the hunt "regulars", so we had a good field.

The hounds were let out of their kennel, and almost immediately caught the scent of a jackrabbit. They raced across the course and zipped through the fence on the far side, horses in hot pursuit. Our "second flight" group followed at a more sedate pace, then held for a while while the whippers-in rounded the hounds back up. We eventually met back up with the rest of the field in the middle of the course at the water jump, then went off to the other side of the course to try to flush out any more jackrabbits.

We spread out and trotted in parallel up the side of the field, when suddenly the huntsmistress yelled "JACKRABBIT TO YOUR LEFT!!!!" We all looked over to see the the entire pack of hounds sprinting toward a jackrabbit that was between our second flight horses and the fenceline. The rabbit dodged among the horses, and suddenly it was up to us to keep the hounds from going through the fence. The huntsmaster and one other rider from our group took off, and it was all I could do to keep Saga from racing after them. (Yeah, there's a reason I go second flight. They go slower. This was not slower.) The ATV that was out with us came roaring up behind us, trying to head off the hounds, while the huntsmistress and whippers-in came galloping up, yelling to the hounds and firing rat shot to try to dissuade them from chasing the rabbit. With all the chaos happening around us, I kept expecting Saga to absolutely lose it and take off with me, but he (we?) managed to hold it together and not bolt for the hills.

After that excitement, we put the hounds back up and took a bit of a walk break. Those of us who hauled in decided to go do a few fences. Saga was tired but recovered fairly well, so we did a few small log piles. He was steady to the fences and much happier to be out on his own than he was with the field of horses. We galloped around to a hanging log that was set on a small natural rise with a fairly big natural dip in front of it, and he sucked back a bit to look at it. I closed my leg, clucked to him, and he went right over. It's so wonderful to have a horse that's bold to the fences - even though he looked at it, he never really seriously thought about stopping. Man, I love that horse!

It was getting really hot out, so I decided to finish up with the water jump and check out the up/down bank complex. FuzzyPony got a couple of videos of us:

Through the water. I wish we could keep the canter all the way through, but we make it OK. I need to not pop up so fast after the jump!

Back through the water again, with more energy this time, even though he took a bit of a look jumping over the first fence.

For the grande finale, we headed over to the up/down bank complex (although I must admit that the stair steps were awfully tempting). I took Saga down the bank, then back up, then did both of them together:

Saga took a rather enormous (and unexpected) leap off the bank, and you can hear me yell on the way down. We landed in a bit of a heap on the off side, and I didn't help him much, but I'm so proud that he just went even though I didn't give him a very good ride. What a star pony!

We'll go back next Sunday to do it all again - hopefully with a bit less excitement. I'm hoping that my jumping instructor will come and ride Oberon. I don't think she's ever jumped anything outside of an arena, so it should be a very interesting experience for her! Muahahahaa... I shall bring her over to the dark side!