Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lesson Learned :)

Have I ever mentioned what a wonderful instructor I have? If not, then let me say it now. Kristin Stein is amaze-za-zing. I had a great lesson this past Thursday. Bastian and I have always struggled with his wiggly-ness and my own weakness in my lower body, it is hard to keep him straight. This results in not only unwanted lateral movement but an unsteady poll. So it has been a huge focus of ours to get his little chestnut booty moving and to keep his poll quiet. He’s also a sensitive guy, so every little bobble on my part results in a bobble on his part, it’s a vicious circle.

Over the past few months I’ve gotten better with my upper body and better with my arms (I like to impersonate a chicken every now and then…). Now, we’ve started focusing on bringing my legs into the picture, keeping them on and keeping him tuned in there, using those elusive inner thigh muscles to keep him balanced. In my lesson on Thursday, we got it! If only for a stride or two, but we got it, I felt it, felt the difference it made in his gaits and it was awesome!

I love that Kristin was able to break it all down for us and to get us to this point. It is one of the things I truly look for in an instructor-if you can’t break it down and explain precisely what my leg/arm/hand/seat-bone should be doing I’m going to struggle with it. Another thing I really like about my lessons with Kristin are that even if what I want to be doing is some kind of fancy dressage second levelly thing or jumping over crazy fences (when we were jumping), she won’t allow me to do those things unless I’ve got the pre-requisites under control. A quality that I think is often lacking in many instructors-they do what the client wants instead of the client needs or is appropriate for the client.

The results are phenomenal. Because we have the pre-requisites mastered and in place, we can then do the cool stuff. So like today, because I made sure we were quiet, working off the seat rather than the hands and in front of the leg, Bastian gave his back and was soft and round and we had some crazy good canter-like a whole 20 meters worth of quality 2nd Level score of an 8 kinda canter.

What’s the point of this little story you ask? First off, always listen to your trainer (provided you have a smart one who knows what they are doing). Second, with horses, taking a few steps back will often times get you huge strides ahead. This lesson has been a bit slow sinking in for me-the first time Kristin really applied it with me was three days before Regionals. I wanted to be practicing the elements of my test and what Bastian really needed was a flexible rib cage and to go long and low and get through his back, so we spent the days before Regionals doing long and low work-like pre-training level work, I was freaked. But it paid off and it was what we needed, I could have put him through his first level tricks and he would have done them, but there would be no quality there.

As the rider, it is important to get on and realize where the horse is coming from on that day-it won’t always be where we want it to be. When it is not, realize that it is okay to take a step backward, even if it is right before a major competition. Pushing blindly forward without fixing the basic problem won’t end well for you or your horse. So yeah, today’s ride has now cemented this lesson in my mind. Bastian’s poll was so quiet you could have balanced a glass of water there…. He’s such a great guy and he is settling in nicely to his new home. We’ve also made our first offering to the shoe gods…. Oh well, he’ll be getting new feet soon and then problem solved!

We’re looking forward to an awesome April and a magnificent May (English teacher alliteration there). Just two months before he heads across the country to CA. I’m thinking I may need to start buying Pepto-Bismo by the case to deal with the stress!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pack Your Bags!

So those of you that know me, know that I am a complete and utter geek, through and through. When I'm not doing the ga-zillion and one things that I have to do in order to make a living and prepare my horse for the show season, I can be found reading awesome literature, watching awesome TV shows and movies, and watching the best Japanese Anime around. (Total pop culture junky here) Two of those particular loves are watching (and reading) George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones and watching Nickelodeon's Avatar the Last Airbender. So when HBO decided to put out a template to make your own coat of arms I couldn't resist combining these two ideas and creating a coat of arms and 'house words' for my fabu pony. House 'Luck Dragon' didn't sound right so I just stuck with "House Bastian" and then as I sat there trying to come up with some mind-blowing house words (We do not Tempi ~ala House Greyjoy) I started thinking about Uncle Iroh from Avatar, one of my favorite characters and how his nickname was "Dragon of the West," and well, long story short, I was like 'Hey, Bastian is the Dragon of the East.....' So the above is now my horse's coat of arms....I think its pretty sweet, the only thing that is missing is Bastian's personal logo, which I think I can eventually finagle onto there somehow....

Anyway, the main purpose of this blog is to give an update on our California plans. What I've got right now is some transportation! Woot. So, between borrowed trucks, trailers and a whole gaggle of air plane tickets, Bastian, myself and my slave, er, groom for the week will be making it to California. After the show I'll be making the drive back with him. Road Trip! I'm hoping we're in good enough spirits to get a few touristy pictures with Bastian like at the worlds biggest ball of yarn or something. (He's been telling me that he would really like to journey with the donkeys down into the Grand Canyon). But regardless of that. It looks like Game On. While there are still a ton of other details to work out, this was one of the major ones. If anyone has any frequent flyer miles they would like to donate let me know! LOL

That's all for now, just wanted to share his bodacious coat of arms and our happy progress news. Lesson tomorrow! Can't wait;)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Double the Fun

The ever so handsome B-Man has stayed sound for going on two weeks now...**knock on some serious wood here**! We lost about a month of muscle development in him from his time off, but we're quickly catching back up. That's the best part about having such solid training, he knows what is expected now, we just have to get those muscles responding again, so we have moments of collection and self carriage and its fabulous. (I've also been watching him on the lunge and there is some pretty nice trot in there, I just have to figure out how to find that gear when I'm on him!)

Our plan of attack the past two weeks has been long and slow, we've only just started getting back to doing bits and pieces of "collection." My focus has been on getting him through his back again and in front of my leg. The first week was tough, all he really wanted to do was have a 9 year old TB moment and go "KABOOM!" but he (for the most part) kept it together so the relaxed and forward wasn't happening to much until this past week. So as we re-adjust to each other there have been bobbles, but they are lessening every day and he is becoming quieter in his poll again.

We've also did our first ever ride in a double bridle. I've ridden with a double one other time in my life, but was pretty handy with gags and combination bits that utilized two reins back in my grand ol' eventing days so at least the two rein thing didn't freak me out. I'm pretty sure I could not hold anything else in my hands; two sets of reins and two whips is quite enough, thank you. My hands hurt after about 30 minutes since I'm not used to the curb rein yet. But mission successful, Bastian was quite accepting and when I managed to hit the sweet spot, it was heavenly. We're going to incorporate that into our regimen once a week. I'm also pretty sure that since we are now 'using' a double, he should automatically start passaging, piaffing, and piriouetting. He did none of those things so I think I want my money back.... lol

Funding is still going rather slow, but I'm hammering away at it. I have to give a HUGE thank you to the faculty and staff of Iroquois Elementary School in Erie, PA. They generously donated their casual Friday fund for February to Bastian and I to help us make it to California. Their generosity is much appreciated and gets us one step closer to our goal. I continue to cut out whatever I can and in April we will be moving to another local barn where Bastian will be field boarded for about a 1/3 of what I pay for board now. That extra money can be put into our California fund. It was not an easy decision to make, he's a happy camper and of course I can't foresee any problems but with horses you just never know! I think he will be okay, he was an outside bachelor when I first got him. I'll still be able to ride with Kristin when she comes out to my new barn and in the in-between times I'll be riding with Tawny Williamson. So fingers crossed that he'll like his new living situation!

My tack trunk is almost finished I just need to put the finish on it and thanks to some great advice from my TSC co-workers I got this awesome finish that is the same thing they put on bars to keep them from getting banged up and destroyed by inebriated patrons, so if we have a rough day at a horse show we can just belly up to my tack trunk and have a few....dual purpose equipment is always the best!

Those are the high lights for the moment. A final note: Hooray for March Madness! May the best Gator/Buckeye win ;)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Crunching the Numbers

No, it’s not some super yummy new breakfast cereal, although that would be nice wouldn’t it…. Nope, I’ve started to do the math that is California and frankly its downright frightening, but between sheer determination and a little bit of luck, Bastian and I will be making this trip. Here is the initial fiscal breakdown:

Hotel for 10 days: $800

Plane Ticket Roundtrip: $500

Rental Car + fuel: $500

Food for 10 days: $500

Show Fees: $1000

Additional Stabling: $300

Hauling: $???? (I haven’t heard back from any shippers yet….)

Sooooo…..that means that not including hauling I’m looking at $3600. :^O

Damn! So between now and then I’m going to have to do some massive fundraising. I’ve cut out everything I could possibly cut out of my everyday life that costs me extra money (good bye TV!) .

I’m still selling Polo Shirts and Saddle Pads and would love to put on a schooling CT in May to help raise funds. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated! And anyone who wants to plan and organize something I would really appreciate that! This isn’t a cop-out, I will do whatever it takes, but between two jobs and full time grad school and trying to ride and train it gets a bit overwhelming…. But I am definitely all ears and I need help-I can’t do it on my own.

On the Bastian front, there is still something a little wonky going on and its back and forth between his LH and RF. The vet wants us to do a round of Tildren in March and then to have his hocks done in May. Its looking like the Kentucky show is going to be nixed from the schedule-it’s just too much between extra vet money and the trip to CA. Viriginia in July is the same way. It looks like it will be CA in June, NODA in July and WPDA in August then (hopefully) onto the USDF Festival of Champions (Para-Nationals) in October followed by Regional Championships.

I’ve got a very light work week this week so I’m looking forward to spending lots of time with the hairy chestnut monster ;)

Suggestions on how to make this all happen are welcome!!!! Be sure to check out our website for the most up to date news:

Bastian enjoying the spring mud-he's very into exfoliating his skin....