Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why did no one ever tell me!!!!?????

Huge huge huge break through today. I get it. I understand the concept of pace and how it translates into being able to get from one side of the fence to the other. It started during my jump school on Sunday and finalized itself tonight during my lesson. I totally get it, now I just want to know why it has taken 18 years of riding and jumping before anyone found it necessary to share this information with me!!!!???? Seriously.

Okay, so I got my first horse when I was 12, I took a few lessons between then and when I went to college when I was 18, and by a few I probably mean somewhere between 10 and 15 lessons total over 6 years. I was young and a daredevil so we jumped lots and just kinda made stuff up as we went, as you can guess I hit the dirt alot (I would get way ahead of my short necked little Arabian-nugget) So then I went to college and I got to take riding lessons as my gym class (how stinkin' cool right???) and I rode school horses in lessons, but I never remember anything about getting the horse to the fence other than pointing them at it and making sure I kept my eyes up and leg on.

So for a long time I thought that SPEED = GETTING OVER THE FENCE. So not true. You need to have impulsion, but impulsion does not equal speed. It just equals energy and the ability to do whatever is asked.

I'm getting it, I've felt what its supposed to be and we're getting it more often then we are not. We still had a few jumps tonight where Bastian picked up the slack big time, but most of them were awesome. We were cantering a 2 stride line and after we did as x-rails a few times Kristin makes the back one a vertical and it was huge, just bamm, right up to 2'3"ish or however friggin huge it was. I was a good little student and didn't say a word....at least until after we had jumped through the line successfully. At which I point I stopped pointed at the fence and said, "That is Friggin Huge."

We proceeded to jump that line (with the other fence being made into a 2'3" vertical also lots more and to the right we hit it lovely every time. Found our spots had nice ins and nice outs. :) To the left he was being a bit squirrelly over the first fence, he kept giving it the hairy eyeball and kinda spooking a little but we managed to stay in the line and jump both fences every time (although a few times I almost jumped the standard on the second fence) and we were having straightness issues but we got over and he was basculing beautifully over the fences :)

I actually saw some of my spots!!! Yup, sure did and I put my leg on appropriately. I also did a few other things over some of the fences that were good decisions, but I have no recollection of doing them, they just happened so at least my instincts are to make good decisions :) lol

Kristin has been trying to get me understand this pace thing since I started back to serious jumping this year and I understood the theory behind it, but I didn't get it because I had never really gotten Bastian there and felt consistently what it was supposed to be like. But now I'm totally getting it. Tonight I even half-halted correctly (I used my leg when I said "HEY!") and got him in this awesome sweet spot and we just cruised over the jumps. Super major riding break through!!!!

I wish I had knew this concept years ago, its making this whole jumping thing way less stressful for me, it all makes sense, now I can progress :) So this becomes rule number 7: PACE! YOU HAVE IT OR YA' CAN'T JUMP.

This was the perfect end to a wonderful Tuesday. I found out this morning that I was given Tenure by the school board (this also marks what is probably (and sadly) the longest I have ever held the same job consistently) and then after my lesson I went to fuel up my car and found out I had $3.41 off of gas per gallon, gas in Ohio was 3.23 a gallon so who got 30 gallons of free gas???? I DID!!! Thats $100 worth of fuel for my little Kia and it cost me nada. Now I'm just finishing up my blog and waiting for the new episode of Justified to come on. What a good day.

BN Eventing, be warned. Here. We. Come. ;P

Friday, January 20, 2012

6 1/2 Rules for Jumping

I've been on cloud 9 since the horseshow. Its been a horseless week, I had to work both jobs pretty much every day since Sunday, so that is definitely not why I'm happy. I would have loved to be out at the barn, seeing my horse and my friends. Not to mention that one of Bastian's friends, RW had a run-in with some colic and it got hairy, I wasn't able to do anything, heck I didn't even know until Friday when it was resolved, but so very happy that RW is on the mend.

The Hunter show on Saturday was just the beginning of the last week (and if you wanna get technical, I know that a week officially begins on Sunday, but deal with it :P). Showing Bastian at 2'3" was awesome. So everytime I started to get a bit stressed about anything, I just went back to that 2:00 in the ring where it was so wonderful. I also got my acceptance letter from YSU for grad school. Not sure where its going to fit, but its gotta get done! Job #2 was spent in the back stockrooms reticketing merchandise by myself so I had a lot of time to contemplate this whole jumping thing. I've come up with some basic truths that I have to learn to live by.

1)The height of the fence is insignificant. I need to ride the 18" X-rail and the 2'6" oxer and the 3'3" (not yet! lol) the same way. Forward and Up.

2) Forward. Forward. Forward. Everytime I want to say "whoa," I have to say "go." Bastian gets into a nice soft relaxed canter and then lacks the impulsion he needs to get over the fence. I'm also super guilty because I am so into the on the bit and collected mindset and that is not where Bastian needs to be to jump, He needs to be soft and through, but not with his little nose and poll in a First Level frame. As we come into the fences I keep thinking if I slow down I'll be more in control when I arrive at the fence. Not true, I need to pushforward to the fence. Forward. Forward. Forward.

3) The only bad decision is not make a decision at all. This is actually a gem from the one and only Mr. Conrad Schumacher. Giving up two strides out, freezing, closing my eyes and hoping Bastian gets us to the other side, these are all bad decisions. It may not always be the best decision to take the long spot or to put in the extra stride in the line, but it is a decision and one that Bastian and I can respond to. He will take the long spot, or he'll take the half-stride. Whatever I tell him, he does it (as I've found over the past few weeks of jumping). He says "aye aye cap'n" and takes off when I tell him too, he trusts me and we land from that awkward fence and I can say "okay we needed more (or less), so next time we come around I will push more." Bastian knows his job well enough to take marching orders, he's not to the point were he's like "I've got this mom, just stop trying and sit there." Which isn't to say that he isn't learning that. He saved my but over the last fence in our 2'3" class (I have to keep mentioning that I jumped that high, I'm still pretty excited!), we came into it pretty tight, I didn't have him in front of my leg enough, but he did his job and got us to the other side. So long story short (too late!). Decisions are always good!

4) Dressage is still uber-important! I may not be having Bastian in his super cute First Level frame, but he has still got to be soft and round and listening. If I ask him for more, he's got to respond. If I say move off my left leg, he's gotta move! All of this comes down to have a soft, obedient horse. I fully plan on dressaging my way around XC when we get that far. :o)

5) You can have a bad in and still have a good out. Just because the first fence in a line doesn't ride right doesn't mean that the second fence can't still be perfect. It requires decision making, quick decision making, but its still possible to have a nice second fence. For me, it usually involves more Forward (surprise surprise, right?). This is something that I never knew before about a year ago. I figured if the first fence sucked that the next one would too and just gave up and hoped we made it down the line. Crazy right? Yup, I think you're probably putting the pieces together as to why I have such a mental problem with jumping-my education was very incomplete. I had a few good pieces here and there, but not nearly enough of a frame to hang it all on.

6) You have to ride the horse that you have that day, at that moment. This gem is from Kristin, I think I kinda always knew it, but I never knew that I knew it, or realized when I was putting it into practice or better yet, actually put it into practice on purpose. Overall, Bastian is pretty consistent, but we have our struggles. One of our big ones is getting him in front of our leg. Obviously, I want him in front of the leg no matter what we're doing, but its much easier to fake it in the dressage ring, he can get a little sucked back and its no biggie, I have to make the choice between having him over collected and consistent or bumping him up and having some bobbles. When we jump, its pretty much all or nothing that I have him in front of my leg going forward. Some days he's there, some days we get stuck in lovely dressage canter mode around the fences, which while I like it because it feels slow and controlled, its really horrible because we're not going to have the impulsion to get over the fence. So I've got to learn to actively figure out what type of Bastian I am riding that day, a forward Bastian or a stuck behind my leg Bastian and it can change in the middle of a ride too. If he's gung-ho about jumping that day I'm going to spend the ride saying slow down and will probably be doing some pretty strong half-halts, if he's lazy, I'll be utilizing my crop and my voice, A LOT. So I may go into a lesson hoping to do some fabulous thing, but if we can't get our duckies in a row in order to be able to do that, then guess what, it ain't happening. Somewhat disappointing, but its the reality of it.

And while the following isn't exactly a truth I have to commit to memory, its definitely something to thing about....

Charles Owen Helmets are totally good luck. I like to jokingly talk about how I would never place at a hunter show or do well because I didn't have the trendy Charles Owen or GPA in the two tone colours. Well, I am now the proud owner of a Charles Owen GR8 in black and charcoal and I have to say that its like my magic helmet. Since I got it about three weeks ago, our jumping really took off (hahahaha, get it, took off....). I can be a bit of a superstitious person, so I'm gonna put this sudden burst of confidence on the fact that I have a new helmet. (I do have some awesome lucky socks and yes, I was wearing them at the show last week. I am so worried about these socks lasting FOREVER that I hand wash them, I won't put them in washer, it might eat them....)

There are still a few things that Bastian and I have got to work on. I have the darnedest time seeing my spots. Again, I blame this on not being a math/science person. I can count 1-2-1-2-1-2 up to the fence and see a few strides out if we're gonna take off on the 1 or on the 2, but when I try to count it down it never works out mathamatically. When we do related fences I always get one more stride than its supposed to be because I count our landing as a stride.

And we're working on our fitness, mine and his. My magic number is 155. I'm not going to share where I'm starting from. Bastian's magic number is 20 minutes. Once we start jumping, its about 20 minutes into it that we both start to get tired, then he gets lazy and sloppy and I get lazy and sloppy. But thats gonna change! When I can I'm trying to just go and jump, lots of jumps, non-stop. Tiny things, X-rails and 2' verticals, don't get worried that I'm overworking my boy. I try to focus on keeping that lovely forwardness that we tend to have over our first 8-10 jumps, then we get a bit ka-put. This past Wednesday was wonderful for that, good fences, bad fences, but we jumped steadily for about 30 minutes, I just took a few short breaks (there was another lesson so the breaks were good for me and let me steer around the lesson by timing my fences to try and stay out of the way).

Tonight its more jumping (provided that there is jump set up in the arena, I dont' particularly feel like dragging jumps out...we'll see!).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Non-Hunter Awesomeness!

Our horse show at Chagrin Valley Farms was super successful. Bastian was awesome!! We arrived a little late to the show, so we missed the opportunity to school before they closed the ring. Kristin and I came up with an alternate plan, I warmed Bastian up in the warm-up ring while she showed on of her sale horses, then we switched ponies (as in she got on Bastian and I took Maggie back to her stall to untack her) and she rode in our Warm-up class for the 18" division. There was a scary brush fence and they had big old Christmas trees next to the fences along one line and we wanted to make sure he (or really me....because he only looks if I look at stuff...sigh)wasn't going to look at anything.  

He was fabulous, and it was nice to see what he is capable of when he has a rider that has it together on his back,lol. He got his lead changes and had a nice consistent pace, he and Kristin earned a 4th place in the Warm-up. So then we switched, and I climbed back aboard Bastian. We went in for our First trip and of course, the first fence is "new" fence, one that he didn't jump with Kristin in the Warm-up class, but he didn't look at it and we made it to the other side, it turns out I had nothing to worry about. We had some serious lead problems in this class and in our 2nd trip, so you'll have to excuse our disjointed canter in some spots. We managed to pull off a 7th place in our first trip, we didn't place in our 2nd trip. But no worries, I feel like I just need experience and more time in the ring. Our flat class went very nicely, he was a little wound up so most of the ride was spent saying whoa, easy, whoa and LOTS of half halts, we placed 4th out of about 10 or so horses.  

I was very pleased with my handsome, awesome boy :)  

So we've been jumping higher in our lessons and the plan was for Kristin to take him in the 2'3" Warm-up and if was good and didn't give the oxers the hairy-eyeball I would get on and do a round at 2'3".  

Well, he was fabulous! Check out the video:  

He only kinda looked at the first oxer (2nd fence in the outside line) but it was more of a "hey! when did that fence get a back rail? What is up with that?? and then he was super fine. So I got back on and I took him for a spin, it wan't the prettiest thing, but we made it around and that was the most important thing. I haven't competed above 18" for about 6 years? The last time I jumped in a show was BN at Stonegate Farm. Here's our round:  

The best part was that although we had some crappy fences, Bastian made up for my mistakes and got us to the other side (just like a good little eventer!) and I was a little hesitant going to the first oxer, but I managed to push on and after that first oxer I started to focus on more of the little things in my ride, not the height of the fences, and I wasn't afraid. I finished the class and was super happy with both him and me, I would have been very happy and comfortable going back in for another round, I wanted to do it better.  

This week has had some major moments for me. 1) I'm not scared anymore when I jump, I might still get a little nervous here or there, but I've mentally got it together. Physically, I'm still pulling back and not keeping my leg on enough, but I'm thinking forward and picking more and more of our spots, I'm using my whip and voice to reinforce the "go" button on Bastian (which is difficult because I'm use to the whole "no voice" in dressage thing)  

and 2) The height of the fence does not matter. (I'm saying as I plan on never really moving past 3'3" ever) Bastian jumps the 2' the same that he jumps the 2'3" oxer, the same that he jumps the 2'5 vertical. I need to have push and forwardness to both of them, I am fully capable of riding each of those heights. I would have to say it was our Hunter round on Saturday that got me to this point. I jumped three huge oxers, 2'3", the back rail the highest part and wide, much wider than I have ever ridden in practice or lessons and higher than I have ever ridden. We just did it, it felt awesome and it didn't matter that it was big. Huge, Huge, confidence builder for me. I have an awesome instructor and I have an awesome horse ♥♥.

Our next show will be the February Show at Chagrin, we'll be doing the full 2'3" division :) Woot!

Don't forget to keep voting for me and Bastian, I'm up to about 1,500 votes and am 2nd place. Winning this contest will make a HUGE diffrence for Bastian and I, please please vote, share the link, ask all of you facebook friends to vote.