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!

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