Monday, April 23, 2012

Falling off SUCKS

Just when you think that things are going well and everything is going to be fine, they change. Bastian and I ended up not going to the hunter schooling show on Saturday. :(

Here's how it all went down. I got to the barn for my lesson on Friday night at 6:00. Bastian felt GREAT. He warmed up nicely, I had him in front of my leg and we were getting the energy and forwardness we needed but keeping it contained (aka PACE). So we started jumping, everything was going great, x-rails, then verticals, we were doing it and it was going well. Then we came over an oxer (for the second time) and Bastian kinda popped over it, it wasn't even that big of a jump (and believe me he can throw in some BIG ones). I lost my left stirrup and my balance shifted left. According to Kristin I then kicked him with my right leg which made him scoot and I threw my body right to compensate for the left-ness. I might have managed to stay on had my left stirrup not then whipped back and cracked him causing him to say WTF and take off bucking and galloping. I hit the dirt hard on my right side (I have to get a new helmet....) and twisted my right ankle in the process.

I was pissed. At myself, yes it would have been nice if Bastian hadn't reacted the way he did and just said oh, my mom's off balance I'm gonna stand still!, but he didn't and I can't really say I blame him for saying "Ow" when the stirrup hit him. It was just such a simple thing, all that happened was I lost my stirrup and then my balance followed. It wasn't like B was being crazy or he had been biding his time waiting to toss me off, it was just pure dumb luck (the story of my life when it comes to falling off horses).

But it rattled me. I got back on, we jumped the offending jump again, A LOT and ended really nicely, but I started to go back to the "whoa whoa whoa whoa" jump method (we jumped the oxer from a practical standstill at one point- good to know that he knows his job is to get from side A to side B of the fence). My ankle really hurt when we were done, which for me is a big thing since I have such limited feeling in my lower legs from my spinal cord injury. I put B on cross ties and limped down the barn aisle to a chair and took off my boot. It was swollen and had some serious fluid build up. Kristin and Cindy convinced me to be on the safe side and go the ER for x-rays to make sure I hadn't broken it. Because I really wouldn't be able to tell if it was a minor hairline break -I'd never feel it. Two years ago I broke my foot, never felt a thing, it was swollen and purple and looked horrible, but did not hurt. This spinal injury thing has benefits sometimes.

I got out of the ER around 9 PM and went home. We decided that the schooling show could wait, it would be better to go when I'm 100% then when I already have a weak ankle, that was just asking for trouble. Saturday was spent hanging out with my mom, who was a great mom and didn't say too much about me and my equine activities that always seem to end in me getting ouchy.

So now I am re-evaluating my show season and training program. I still want to event, but I think I need to slow down. I am not going to try and enter May-Daze and do BN. If things progress the way I want them to, LHPC HT will be our first BN. I'm still doing the Starter event at Winona and will do the dressage shows I have planned. But everything else is going to be schooling schooling schooling. I still want to take him to Erie and do their CT at the beginning of June and hopefully we'll end up at South Farm on May 5th for their schooling CT. (we always seem to do well at South Farm)

Falling off is part of the business. Its not pleasant, but it happens. All I can do is use it to improve my riding and re-adjust my training program. I still have my goal of being able to jump 3' in the ring by the beginning of June, I think that it is possible for me. I know it is possible for me. So onward and upward. I've encountered more traffic on the road of life, but will patiently wait for it to clear instead of trying to force my way down the berm of the road. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I had the chance to go XC Schooling again today so Cindy and I loaded Banff and Bastian onto the trailer and off we went! My overall plan was to try and get myself relaxed enough so that Bastian would feel relaxed. He is very keyed in to whatever his rider is feeling. We've come a long way and almost mastered our in the ring jumping jitters, now I need to apply that same principle to the big bad outside world.

We spent the first 10 minutes or so walking. He's started doing this walk -jig-walk-jig-walk thing when I first get on (even in the ring) its weird, I need to figure out why he's doing this and get it stopped. Anyway, he did this a few times, but I just kept talking to him and eventually he was walking around and not being too much of a looky-lou. Then we trotted. A lot. He spend most of his time trotting behind my leg, but I was willing to overlook it as long as he stayed quiet, soft and slow. I was also having a stirrup debaucle. (I just got new stirrup leathers and I did not have them adjusted properly, I went up two holes after I had mounted and then just left them where they were, but they needed to go up a bit more). My leg was really slipping forward and I was very hunched over in my shoulders as revealed by the video. I was not the best rider today, lol!

We had spent about 25 minutes and walking and trotting before I finally tried a tiny log. I did not plan well. Its the first jump we take in the video. I meant to steer out of the line and only do the tiny log, but Bastian knows his job and is an awesome guy. He locked onto the second log and in a panicked moment I said "okay" and we went. I got left behind and it looks horrible, but what a horse I have! After that we managed several better jumps, then Cindy helped me just canter around (we hadn't cantered in the big scary field yet). We cantered up hill, down hill and he was wonderful, he never once got crazy. He was still behind my leg, but like I said we both needed to just realize that the field wasn't going to eat us. Every now and then he would get quicker, but he wasn't being grabby andhe wasn't even really being that quick, I just thought he was because of my own timidness.

We had some rough jumps, and we has some pretty nice jumps. I almost came off at one point, but managed to hang on by the seat of my pants literally, my Kerrits Sit-Tights played a part in my sticking on his back. Thank goodness he has an impeccable one-rein stop. I managed to pull myself back on. Unfortunately that meant we had to do the offending jump again. We did and we ended beautifully for us! Here is a recap video: (and let me just say that Cindy and Banff were awesome!)

We still have a ways to go until we get to that happy-confident-ready-to-gallop-xc-fences-and-go-feeling, but for being our third time total cross country schooling and the fact that this was a brand new place where we had never been before Bastian and I were awesome! And I am fully aware that it is all my fault. I don't entirely trust him outside because its new for us and I have this irrational fear that he will take off with me. I mean he has never not stopped when I've asked him to, ever. I need to put on my big girl panties and get over it. I need to relax more, my tension makes him say "ok mom, where is the danger? I'm on the lookout for it. omg, is it under that log? wait, I think I hear something in that tree way over there, is that what's wrong....." When I relax and focus on our job, he relaxes and focuses. Its a total mind game. We ended really well and the last thing I did was to canter all the way around the field. I was very proud of him and of myself. I made a lot of mistakes and I have stuff to work on, but all in all we made HUGE progress today. I hope we can get out at least once more before Winona.

Next Saturday is the last Hunter Schooling Show at Chagrin, we're doing the 2'3" division again and we are going to rock it. I will keep my leg on, stay out of his feet.

Ride Awesome my friends, Ride Awesome.
Bastian (in the stunning yellow and blue argyle) and Banff back on the trailer after their awesome XC Schools! Photot courtesy of our lovely groundsperson: Samantha Channell!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Oh yes we did!

WOO-HOO! Guess what Bastian and I did today???

I jumped 2'9. Yup, I did it of my own free will (as in I wasn't in a lesson, although, granted, my instructor was present in the ring) and it was AWESOME. All I had to do was keep my leg on, my hands soft and my butt out of the saddle. Bastian took care of the rest. He felt so wonderful snapping up over that fence, one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

We even had a wonky jump and both Bastian and I handled it. We came around the corner and I aimed him towards the jump on the diagonal and he decided that the two horses standing along the wall were suddenly more interesting I swear he felt like his head was pointing dead right instead of looking at the fence in front of him. Somehow, I didn't panic, but I legged him on and got his attention back just as we got to our spot at the base of the fence, he pulled a little bit of an "oh crap where did that come from!" and launched over the jump, he landed forward, but not crazy. I totally dealt with a bad in and rode my horse over the fence.

We also did a tiny oxer and a skinny with a scary black pole on it. :o)

Its amazing to think that just three months ago we were struggling to get from one side of a cross rail to the other. Team Bastian has had some great support over the past few months, so thank you to those that have helped me stay focused and find the chutzpah to do what needed done.

The countdown to Winona is on! Starter division, prepared to be dominated!
Bastian is ready to go!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mind Games

The only thing worse than seeing a 32 year old woman have a temper tantrum because her horse is being fresh is seeing a 32 year old woman have an emotional breakdown because she can't jump over a X-rail without her horse grabbing the bit and diving to the left. Yes, this was me today. When opportunity knocks, you open the door. I had the chance to go XC schooling with Cindy at Stone Gate Farm today. Probably not the best idea considering Bastian is coming off of a week and half of stall rest and he was rarin' to go, but this is what eventers do, for better or worse we go out there and make the best of it.

Part I: Lovely!!

This was our first XC school of the season and Bastian's second XC school of his life. He was initially good, we warmed up in their dressage/stadium arenas and just trotted and cantered a bit until he felt relaxed and had had a look at everything. Our first fence was horrendous. It was a little x, we trotted up to it and he was being so good until we got to our spot and he said "oh shit! where did that come from" at which point he leapt straight up into the air and came down ON the jump. But then he at least had the good sense to be abashed so we came at it again he he took it lovely, then we curved up to a little 2' vertical, again, lovely. We did that a few times then the moment of truth, there was a 2'6" vertical set up and I decided if I was going to be jumping XC, I had better be able to get myself from one side of that fence to the other. So we cantered it and he waited and jumped and landed so beautifully, so we did it again to make sure it wasn't just a fluke and all I can say is wow. He was on. I gave him an enthusiastic pat and we made our way into the XC field.

Part II: Breakdown

Somewhere, we lost it. Bastian said "Wheeeeee!!!!!!!!!!" and I said "oh shit." All we were trying to do was trot and canter in the big open field up and down the slight hills. He was behind my leg and I was too scared to push him forward. Although I know that when Bastian is like this I need to put leg on so that he has guidance or else he will expend his energy as he sees fit, which includes mini-bucks. But I rarely put this intelligent plan into action. Something I need to work on. So we went back to the stadium warm up and he was revved up and I started hanging on his mouth and this combined with my lack of leg led to a funky spot x-rail followed by diving left and bucking. Once this happens once, it's nearly impossible for me to regain that calm, cool perspective on jumping that Bastian and I need. It got worse and worse until he suddenly realized that the horse we had traveled with was gone and he decided to SCREAM (something I cannot abide in horses) followed by a buck, rear and a spin. I jumped ship. He has never shown attachment to any horse before and I cannot say how disappointed I am in my usually oh so level headed bachelor. So we lunged in their roundpen for about 10 minutes where he ran, bucked and spun to his little heart's content. During the jumping I alternately cried (sobbed) and yelled some not very nice obscenities at my horse. (temper tantrum)

Part III: Redemption

I got back on. We trotted the X-rail twice and he was good. I really thought about keeping my hands soft and keeping my leg on. What a difference actually riding makes ;P Back out to the XC field. There was a BN coop out there, Jackie had me walk him by it and then we discussed me actually jumping it. She wanted to know if I was going to trot it or canter it. Here was my response:

"I can't trot it because I know I won't have enough leg, and I'm too scared to canter it, so neither?"

Good answer right? So we put the coop on the back burner and went and trotted through the water a few times, he LOVES the water, I don't foresee that ever being a problem XC. Then we did their bank, which he was also a champ about, he is really good about the up and down. Then we proceeded to go up the bank, jump over a tiny little log going down the bank then a few strides to a BN (?)log. Here he proved what an AWESOME and HONEST horse he is, I decided we were doing the BN log, but we came off of the little log with no impulsion, I had seriously slipped my reins and he tripped at the base of the BN log, but I kept my leg on and he just hopped over it like it was no big deal. I had done it, it wasn't pretty but we got from point A to point B, together. So we did the bank again and then trotted around to that scary BN coop, I kept my leg on and he said "yes ma'am" and jumped it without a second look. We came around again at a canter and we could have had a bit more pace, but he was soft and we hit our spot, he jumped it like an old pro, landed and cantered on. I was quite happy with him. We did two more tiny fences, like 18", they were little, but he kept himself together and I kept my mind in the game.

That is all this is for us right now, a lack of experience and me keeping my mind in the game. I'm still aiming for the starter division at Winona, we can handle it. Between now and then Cindy and I are going to try to get off the property as much as possible and ride out in the big bad world. With experience and miles I'll get to the point where I feel as confident on Bastian as I did on Melvin. Melvin was a great confidence booster, he was a genuine point and shoot guy, you could be hanging off of his ears and he would just get from one side to the other. This was us at the Lost Hounds Pony Club Horse Trials doing the Novice division:

I CAN DO IT. I WILL DO IT. Today was rough, it doesn't matter. It happened, I learned from it and Bastian and I will move on.