Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Letting Go of the Reins

There has not been as much riding going on this past week as I would have liked, but that is just how the cookie crumbles sometimes. I've been getting more hours at work, which is good because when I was sick, I lost out on a lot. Then we went to the Horse Expo in Harrisburg to watch the Retired Racehorse Trainer's Challenge. So Bastian time has been a bit thin, but the quality of that time has more than made up for it.

First off, I need to say that I am very proud of myself for not buying stuff. All that was on my shopping list was new hairnets, which I bought. I also bought a new lead rope, horse shavers, and two mineral blocks. My spending total was $20. There was a lot of stuff I wanted to buy, but I didn't. So kudos to me :) lol

Second, getting to watch the RRTC and getting to sit in on a Jimmy Wofford clinic really clicked with me. Jimmy Wofford is a riot. I would give my left foot to ride with him. He had great information (the clinic we watched was schooling XC in an indoor) on thinking exercises for the horses, but he did not hold back when a rider made a mistake and then he would do a high pitched voice and pretend to be their horse and comment on what just happened. It was awesome! It was definitely my kind of humor.

One of his big things was the reins. And NOT using them, as in we as riders are overly dependent on our reins and we need to be less reliant on them. All he wanted was the rider to keep their leg on, keep them straight and not touch their faces. It was pretty cool to see the progression with some of the riders. One rider had a somewhat hot horse and at one point Jimmy Wofford said something to the effect of "Your horse is crazy, but he's not stupid!" I thought that was funny, because I think this could apply to a lot of horses. (Last night Bastian was being a bit crazy, but he sure ain't stupid! lol)

I also want to ride with Stuart Pittman one day. He is pretty damn funny and has a lot of good ideas. His clinic was on re-balancing the ex-racehorse and there was a lot of excellent ex-racehorse information for those that either own or are thinking about owning an OTTB. I felt like he de-bunked a lot of misconceptions about them. I think its great, because OTTB are a great resource for some nice horses. Anyway, watching these trainers take these "green" TBs around the arena and then over some fences was so good for me! All the trainers stayed out of their faces and just kept them between their legs. And their horses for the most part were great, but every now and then one would start flipping his head obnoxiously or twisting their head and neck and the riders just stayed soft and kept their leg and within 10-15 strides it was sorted.

It was a huge eye-opener for me, especially when they started jumping. They just pointed them at the fence, kept their leg and did not touch their faces. The horse's took a few funky jumps but their riders just stayed calm, no one grabbed at reins and once they landed, the horses just said okay and didn't take off or buck or kick or anything. (Well, Solidify, one of Tiffany Catledge's horses kinda took off after some fences, but it was more of a "woo-hoo!" why has no one ever let me jump before! and he did come back pretty quickly, he is gonna be a nice pony for someone!)

Speaking of, I am now collecting money and taking donations so I can buy High Level. He really wants to come and live with me and by my upper level dressage horse, this horse can move (and jump!) and he's chestnut. What more could a girl want? Unfortunately his 10K price tag is a bit of a problem for me at the moment, lol. But its a definitely a bargain for who-ever snatches him up. Look how cute! (And I think this video really shows how if you just stay quiet and let them figure it out they are awesome, he is being super fussy with his head coming in to the X)

And check out that second fence! Wow! So, if you are interested in contributing to the "Buy High Level for Katie Fund" just let me know ;)

I came home from the expo with a lot to think about. On Sunday morning Bastian and I just hacked on the flat and he felt pretty good, a little heavy in the contact at times, but good :) I worked on Monday, so no Bastian time. But we had a jumping lesson last night. I feel like I have all the puzzle pieces to having a good jump, I just struggle with keeping them all together t times. But last night was awesome. I thought very hard about not touching his face. My method involves wrapping my fingers into his mane, but hey it works! We had three fences set up as X's to warm up with, one as plain, one had yellow flower boxes and one had a mini-brick wall with some flowers. EVERYBODY was having trouble with the brick wall X, so I left it for last.

He warmed up nice over the plain X, took the fence perfect, so we headed to the yellow flowers. We trotted up to it, and he said "Holy Shit where did that come from!" at which point (because I kept my leg on!) he deer lept over it and yes, he cleared the standards. The best part was that a) I stayed on (always a positive) and b) I did not negatively react, we just landed and he barely trotted forward, I think he realized how silly he was being and was abashed. So we came around again and he only sorta over-jumped it. We got the kinks out over the yellow flowers and then we headed towards the terrifying brick wall X. he trotted up to it and said NO! he actually stopped. I said something not very nice to him, kicked him, hit him with my stick and we jumped it from a standstill. I rode! Yay for me! It took about 4 more jumps, but he eventually chilled out and we cantered everything.

So then we got down to the meat and potatoes of the lesson. It was just about getting the puzzle put together and keeping to the fence. I have to say that the majority of the time we had it and when we didn't, I at least realized where I was going wrong. Our biggest struggle of the day was getting that uphill, fluffy canter to the fences, Bastian really likes to just get flat. I just kept thinking about the RRTC riders, they kept their leg on and let the horse figure out the fence and stayed out of their faces. It totally worked!

So lesson was going great, we totally rocked some oxers and we headed towards the scary brick fence, which was now a vertical. Bastian came up to it and said "No way, no how." He went left, he went right and then popped over the fence like it was going to eat him. He was being so silly. I wasn't so sure I was going to stay on over that one, but I did, so we brought him around again and he went straighter but still popped over it. So we did one more time and he popped over it slightly less. We decided to quit on that, it wasn't the best jump in the world, but I stayed on, I rode, and Bastian's reaction was overall ok. No, I wasn't happy that he was spooking at the fence, but I said go and he said yes, which is definitely an improvement over a few months ago when he would have stopped or run out. And, another awesome part was that since I didn't get grabby during those crazy jumps, Bastian didn't take off or buck or get crazy after the fences. (Also because I was up and off of his back!) So all in all it was a fabulous lesson.

I work today and tomorrow so I won't see Bastian again until Friday when Cindy and I take our ponies up the Chagrin Valley Farms. We'll be schooling the course on Friday and then showing in the 2'-2'3" division the next day. I think that he is going to be awesome, he is always good at CVF, and I am going to do my part by staying out of his face, staying off his back, and keeping my leg on. :) Wish us luck!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly....

Just a quick update.

This week kinda sucked. In fact, it sucked a lot. I ended up being stomach sick on Monday so I didn't go to the barn (this is in addition to being cold-sick), Tuesday and Wednesday I went but our rides were down-right embarrassing. On Tuesday, Bastian and I were like water and oil. I was seconds behind on every give, every transition, on everything basically. I had put out some poles to work on cantering over and potentially get a lead change and we couldn't even canter over them. On top of that, I was super dehyrated and my legs kept cramping. The only thing I could do was to get off and stand there waiting until they stopped. :( Wednesday was marginally better. Thursday I was sick again.

Finally, on Friday, we got our Mojo back, thank goodness. My helper-monkey, Julia, had ridden him already in the afternoon, so I only ended up riding for about 20 minutes, but they were an intense 20 minutes! I just pretended we were at an event and he had already done the dressage phase without It went great, he was in front of my leg, I was up off his back and we were hitting out spots! WOOT! Then we did our 5 minute "gallop" in two-point, which killed my legs! But he was rarin' to go. Eventing is going to suit him. :P My legs are still like jelly when I come down out of two point, we trotted for about 3 minutes after our gallop and the first five strides of that trot I couldn't get my legs to cooperate and I looked like a beginner just figuring out the trot, it was funny.

This morning, I rode with Cindy, the best jumping partner in the world!! We did a bounce to a one stride and Bastian rocked it. We ended with the last fence at 2'6" and it felt so amazing, we hit our spot everytime, we were forward, I had my leg on, Bastian just did his job and never batted an eyelash. I can't say enough good things about today. Then, I trotted him on a long rein to do my 2 point today (trying not to gallop him two days in a row) and Holy. Trot. Batman. Like wow. It was a solid 8 trot. He was swinging through his back and so quiet through his poll. It was such an awesome way to end our ride.

Dressage tomorrow, then jumping lesson on Tuesday, I can't wait!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Jumping for Joy!

I'm up to 8 followers! Woot! Bastian's fan club is growing ;P

First off, I want to whine. I am miserable. I started out last week with an ear ache, went to the doctor and he gave me horse-sized antibiotics. I was doing kinda okay until yesterday and I think that my 5 minute coughing fit whilst I was riding did me in. I took lots of cold/flue meds Thursday night and woke up feeling horrible. Whenever I started to talk, coughing ensued. Painful coughing. I almost couldn't talk to the person we call when we have to call off work, there was a lot of coughing and I got worried they might hang up. . I've spent pretty much the whole weekend on my couch under my electric blanket with a TK kitty on my lap and a Doodle by my side. Aside from the sick part,not such a bad way to spend the weekend. I am officially on the mend and looking forward to riding tomorrow after work.

Whining done. Moving onto the good stuff. I had a great lesson on Wednesday. Kristin and I are really starting to figure out exactly what makes my jumping tick and what throws me for a major loop.

Second, if you haven't already read it, go check out the Riders4Helmets website ( Bastian and I are featured in one of their stories :)

Since the show I've been true to my no-stirrup exile. The first day of no-stirrup work I did 30 minutes without stirrups, posting trot, two point and canter. However, by the end of the ride while I was super ouchy and exhausted, Bastian wasn't even close to being a little tired. So I made a slight adjustment. My warm up is now done without stirrups so 15-20 minutes then I ride the rest of the time with my stirrups, this way I at least get him worked too. So a bit of a compromise, but still getting the job done.

Its great because when I do have my stirrups now, I know that I'm in the right spot if my inner thighs hurt, that is how I know I am engaging the right muscles. lol This is what I need to be doing in order to be successful. Unlike the majority of other riders, I can't compensate with my lower leg, I don't have any strength there and I have very little stability there, especially in half seat. I can "cheat" a little riding dressage because I'm "sitting" in the saddle so I don't have to worry about my lower leg. That is why I my only really good jumps are the first 5-8, after that I just can't keep myself up in halfseat and I get left behind. This affects soooooo much!

When I get behind the motion, I ride backwards, say whoa, and I cannot see my spots. Then we jump all wonky and I'll hit my boy in the back over the jump and on the landing, not to mention that I majorly slip my reins so as not to hit him in the mouth which then becomes a safety issue because I'm not in 'control' of my horse (not that he does anything.... but still its not a good habit to get into!). I also have a super hard time keeping my left leg on my horse over the fences. It will actually pop off several inches from his side, its kinda weird. We're just now addressing this oddness and figuring out a way to try and keep my left leg on because when he's being squirrely he'll duck left and he'll land left and well no wonder if I don't have my leg on on that side.

Magically, when I am with the motion and up where I need to be, we have been magically hitting our spots. Its amaze-za-zing! It was so great to unlock another piece of the jumping puzzle in my lesson. I may have to extend my no-stirrup ruling a bit longer into March, I've only got two months until Winona and I want to rock it, so I've got to be stronger.

I didn't ride on Saturday because I felt so icky, but I did ride on Sunday with some others at the barn. We had Jackie Smith of Stone Gate Farm come to the barn and do some awesome thinking exercises with us and our horses. We were jumping fences with points and arms and we jumped a skinny! (we had never done a skinny before in our lives, not to mention that it was skinny with a black plastic pole and not a normal white pole-he never batted an eyelash!) He was hesitant about jumping over the block at the point of the fence, he was just like, "ah, there is all this other jump here, why must we jump it here?" But then he got it. It was a very educational session. I've really got to be more precise with him and make quicker decisions. And when I was with him, god was it lovely, when I wasn't with him, it wasn't very fact it wasn't a bit pretty. You'll have to cut me a little slack because I was pretty sick and foggy so Bastian and I weren't exactly meshing.

I sent in applications to ride at Equine Affaire with either Peter Leone or Scott DeHelian, so keep your fingers and toes crossed that I get accepted. It would be such a great educational opportunity for us and would definitely help with getting us more experience. If Bastian can behave at Equine Affaire, we can handle the event world. LOL Here is our application video

And don't forget: Go vote for Bastian as the coolest horse in the world! We really need the votes, we're in 4th place! You can also vote for my entry in the "Best Breeds" contest. All proceeds will go towards funding Bastian via paying off my debt (much of which was incurred during my "down" time after I broke my back, I didn't have a job for two years) Here are the links:

Coolest Horse Video:

Best Breed Video:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

If you are a fan of Bastion, please go vote!

This is nothing more than a shameless plug for votes.

Winning the "coolest horse in the world" contest would make a huge difference to me, there is $5000 on the line, that is a huge chunk of debt that would make my life so much better to be without. So if you haven't yet headed over there, please do so. Here is the link:

You can log in via facebook. Share the link on your page and have other people vote too, I'm not above begging here. Think of it as sponsoring a hard working rider without having to actually put out any money! Just five days of quick voting and your done.

More substantial blog updates will come this weekend-I had a great lesson on Wednesday where I learned A LOT and I am riding in a mini-clinic on Sunday. Til' then, VOTE!! (please)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Successfully Unsuccessful!

*sigh* I can't sleep because I've got a killer ear-ache, a super swollen throat and I have no advil in the house. So here's the wrap-up for today:

Today was spent at the Chagrin Valley Farm hunter schooling show. It was a day filled with both good and bad. I'm not sure which was more prevalent, but I'm going to focus on the positives....

So lets get the negatives out of the way:

*We showed in eight classes and only brought home one ribbon, an 8th out of like 23 in our Hopeful Hunter Under Saddle Class. And before you gear up for your lecture, I know its not about the ribbons, but I happen to like ribbons and like to bring them home with me...

*I froze up. A lot. I got fussy with my hands, said "whoa" more than I said "go" and I hit my poor boy in the back several times because I didn't get up into half-seat/2 point enough.

*Said poor riding led to: bucking, head tossing, and spooking

So I guess thats not as many negatives as I was thinking, but I did lump all of my poor riding habits du jour into one...


*I schooled my own horse 100% Usually Kristin gets on and warms him up a bit, gets him going nicely and then I get on and try to (fairly unsuccessfully) recreate what she's done. Today though I did everything, which is kinda what screwed us up, but thats the name of the game. I want to event. At events I'm not allowed to have my trainer get on and warm up my horse, not to mention that schooling the course isn't an option. So I've got to figure this out. Thankfully I have a good instructor to talk me through it (even when it seems that I am ignoring her comments) and I have an AWESOME horse that is pretty damn forgiving and willing to work with me on this.

*I stayed on. Watch the video, it was questionable a few times, he wanted to buck, he spooked at the viewing room, we got all crooked/wonky..... So staying on counts as a positive

*I made decisions and had it together about 40% of the time. The other 60%, well lets just not talk about that....

*I wasn't afraid. I physically rode that way, but mentally I was there, in the moment saying "wow that sucked" or "not the right decision!" At no point during my 2'3" class did I say, "what was I thinking! I should stop!"

*If I was eventing, I would have had a penalty for circling and maybe some time faults. But that might not have knocked me out of the placings... just sayin'

So I've got a lot to work on. A ton. My lesson on Friday night before the show went pretty good, I've got the idea of pace, but I'm struggling with actually getting it and keeping it. I either put on too much leg and he gets fast and flat or I half halt too much and we have nada when we get to the jump. I'm still working to find that balance of leg and half halt and not being so handsy. Otherwise we really are getting there. That is our biggest challenge at home.

Homework List

*Everything that was wonderful fell apart at the show. I get jazzed up, ride more tightly and Bastian totally feeds off of that. When I stay calm, he stays calm. He is so sensitive in that way. I've gotta step up and really get on board and stay focused and calm. At this point its mostly a case of miles and miles and miles and miles. I need to jump a ga-zillion jump courses at shows until I just don't care anymore.

*NO STIRRUPS- ugh- I've taken away my stirrup priveleges for the month of February with the exception of my lesson where I need to work on our jumping. I'll jump x-rails without stirrups right now, but not anything bigger. Call me a wuss if you want, but not until you drop your stirrups.... :P but I need to be stronger and get up in half seat and stay there.

*Canter, canter, canter, canter. I have to figure out how to use my legs and my half halt together. So lots of cantering (should be a hoot with no stirrups, at least its a short month....)

So that's my homework for the month. Had some rough spots, then we got it together, then rough, then together. All I can say is that it was a learning experience.

Totally not how I pictured this morning going, but the best laid plans often go awry and awry they did go. :)