Sunday, February 13, 2011

Getting a Jump on Things

Just a quick update because I am so super happy with all of our rides this week!

On Thursday, we had a great jumping lesson where did a three stride line and by the time we were done, the first jump was at 2' and the second jump was at 2'3"!  Woot!  I was very apprehensive about doing it, I'm not gonna lie.  And because Bastian has been out of the jumping loop a bit too, we're both like OMG! 2'!!  And he over jumps it (also because I keep saying "slower, slower when I need to just relax and let him go at the pace he's going) and it feels huge so I get a little off kilter too. 

He way over-jumped the 2'3" the first time we jumped it and it felt very very cool, but it terrified me too!  (In a good way, kinda like a really good roller-coaster).  Thankfully I've gotten pretty good at keeping my shoulders back and keeping my position so although I feel all out of sorts, I keep my seat and land and am able to ride on, I'm not getting thrown all over the place. 

So today I set up an X to a 2' with three strides and then just a single X that eventually went up to a verticle at 2' also.  He was fantastic and we cantered 90% of the jumps, only trotting the first few to get warmed up, but he was ready to go!  The best part is that he wasn't overjumping the 2' jump today, at all!  It was just a normal jump so its not as big a deal as before...what a good boy!! *pat pat*

I was pretty cooked myself towards the end, I had the brilliant idea of riding in my jumping tack on Saturday too, but still "dressaging."  Brilliant idea? Yes.  Achy muscles? Yes.  I'm trying very hard to stay in a lighter seat in my jump tack, more hunter-ish (yes, I'm progressing towards the dark side! lol) whereas in my dressage saddle, when I get a little fatigued towards the end of the lesson, I can use the saddle to support myself a bit, I don't have to be as dependent on my muscles and position as much.  Jumping saddles are not that forgiving.....but judging by the ouchy-ness of my muscles, I think I am making progress.  I'm glad that I won't have a chance to ride again until Wednesday because my muscles need to recover!

After we were done, I pulled his tack off and set up a small oxer.  Bastian doesn't understand oxers in the sense that they are different and so he will way overjump them.  I came off of him the first time we jumped an oxer last year because he just didn't know what to do with it other than jump it like it was a 5' triple bar and I just lost my balance.... Anyway, I decided I would start lunging him over some oxers when we jump so he can figure out that they are no big deal on his own before I get up there.  The first couple were a little sticky then he got his groove on and when he came around he locked on the fence and took it like it was nothing.  He was actually getting a little lazy about it.  I got it up to a 2' square oxer and he went over it both ways. 

Bastian was a gem on Saturday, we managed to to some lengthenings, have nice transistions and did some pseudo shoulder ins.  (We're just starting to play with the idea of shoulder ins, I really don't know what I'm doing aside from trying to get him on three tracks and getting him to move his shoulders).

So thats it!  Bastian got to play outside this morning with his friend RW, so I think that made him happy :)
Bastian enjoying his hay after a wonderful day of jumping :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Warm-up rings and oxers and flower boxes oh my!

Welcome to February.  So far this year has been much better than last year, lets hope it keeps rollin' this way. ☺

Bastian has been being a gem since he turned into a charity giving kinda guy, in fact I think I am almost ready to up his grain back to 3/4 of a can, especially since he's getting worked regularly now.  Just two and half months left before our first big show! I've still got to renew our USEF memberships.....

Tonight was a wonderful wonderful school.  Bastian warmed up quite nicely and once I stopped fidgeting with my hands as much and paid more attention to where my weight was, he got very nice and steady.  Which is basically my current goal, I am in need of some lessons, but can't do a whole lot until towards the end of the month.  My last lesson was I think either right before christmas or right after, I can't even remember now.... 

We have awesome mirrors in the arena now!  The good part is that I saw how much my hands where making Bastian unsteady and how my weight was totally on the inside, but the downside is that I realize how much I have fallen off of the healthy eating wagon.  So I guess the arena mirrors are a love-hate kinda thing.  I've gotta lose about 15 lbs in order to considered holding up my end of this fitness bargain with Bastian, we have enough other stuff to worry about without my fat butt bouncing around on his back being one of them. 

But back to tonight, because I think it was a reaffirment of where we are headed and what we can do when both of us F-O-C-U-S.  He's really getting the idea of lengthening in the trot, its barely there but he at least *thinks* about it and he doesn't just speed up like he did in the beginning.  When we first started really schooling lengthenings he only had two solutions: Go into really fast turbo-trot or canter.  Canter was usually the easier answer, much to my chagrin in the middle of my tests.  But now I'm getting better at using my core to hold him together while kicking (rather wildly) him forward and making him energize.  I can feel him starting to stretch (and maybe I'm way off base here with my terminology so no one crucify me...) through his back and try to take a bigger stride.  Our first two lengthens seemed closer to our working trot tempo, just bigger, while our last two just felt out of joint and discombobulated.  But overall, a great improvement from where we started, I think we may have earned 6s on our lengthens if they had been the first two, maybe 5s on the last two.  But 6s are good, we'll start there ☺

Bastian's canter work has come so far.  His canter is (in my opinion) his best gait.  Again, when I focus, we have some nice transitions where he goes up into the bridle and leaps into the canter.  Today he started out like he was on cruise control, I remembered to keep my legs tight and my hands up and not to brace.  When we circled, I kept my inside leg on and my hand up and weight to the outside.  Overall, it was great.  He was just steady as could be.  We played with some counter canter and he was great, I'm really very happy with how balanced he is in counter canter and he doesn't ever try to change leads on me and rarely breaks.  We did some canter loops, which are easy as pie for him compared with schooling "geniune" counter canter.  Although I worry that sometimes our shift in direction are a little too abrupt, we need to make the loop smoother. 

We did a few canter lengthens as well, which he really really really seems to like.  When I put my leg on in the canter and hold with my core, he's like "woo-hoo!" and really opens up.  I think that will be very fun once I get my courage up to do some cross country.......

And we finished up with some leg yield work.  The new arrangement of movements in First 3 (that is hard to get used to, only 3 tests per division!) is, I think, initially difficult.  You leg yield off the wall, K to X, then do two ten meter circles, first to the left, then to the right, then leg yield X to H.  The leg yield off the wall kills me so I've been schooling it pretty hard, Bastian seems to know when were about to start leg yielding because I know I'm tensing and then he tenses and then he's moving sideways (usually) and his head is all sorts of up in the air... ugh.  I try very hard to focus on everything, my weight, my legs, my hands, where I'm looking..... but I still always forget at least one of them, lol.  But I do believe that our leg yields are improving.  The second half, leg yielding out of the right hand 10 meter circle is great, its sets them up for it quite nicely.  I guess its just the rapid fire of four difficult (for the level of the test) movements in a row.  I've finally figured out the best way to school it in the arena (our arena is shorter and wider than a 60 x 20 ring) so I'm at least happy about that. 

Tomorrow is another flat day and then a jumping session on Thursday under Kristin's watchful eye.  Bastian had turned into a jumping machine!  He went to a Hunter show this past Saturday with one of Kristin's students who rode him quite nicely in a few flat classes, earning a 5th and a 6th place ribbon out of groups of 9ish and it was her first show to boot.  Awesomeness!  I had Kristin take him two 18" Hopeful Hunter OF classes for experience and he was quite good, I'll post video of the rounds eventually.  He earned a 1st place and a 3rd place.  I was very proud of him. 

He has developed a sudden fear of horse's coming towards him in a warm-up ring though.  Not sure where exactly this came from, my best guess is from Regionals where I was in the most crowded and scary warm-up ring of our lives with lots of crazy horses and its fair share of riders that jus weren't paying attention and didn't give a damn.  But since we never actually even came close to being in a wreck, I'm not sure what his beef is. 

Anyway, my plan is for him to go to the next Hunter show and I'll either be jumping him myself in the 18" division or riding in a few flat classes.  My ultimate goal is to show in the 2'3" Hunters in April.  I'm schooling 2' (ish) now so its just three more inches and a few oxers.  We can do it....I just have to be brave!

Til' next time :)