Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gymnastic Time

Recently, Cadence has been pretty strong in her jumping work. Which isn't to say she was bad; its kind of like she's just constantly pushing. Rather than having relaxation in our jumping work, she was always pushing, pushing, pushing. On the one hand, this is a good thing. She's eager, engaged, and jumping really well, but there was also a bit of disregard for rider input in our work as well. She had it in her head how things were supposed to be done, and that was that.
So my goal going into our jump school today was to have a more elastic & responsive horse at the end of our ride. One of the new boarders brought some of those cavaletti box standards with her which are awesomely light, but their max height is like 2' or 2'3, which kind of limits their usefulness! Anywho, I wanted to try to use as many of them as possible, as it just makes jumping so much easier. So with that & my goal for our ride in mind, I decided to do a simple 1-stride gymnastic with a vertical, to a low-wide oxer to a larger vertical. Great exercise for the mare as she has to constantly change her form, and since I set it a bit tight (17' to 20') she would really need to rock back ' use herself.
Cadence warmed up well, & was perfectly ladylike while we hopped back & forth over our cross rail, but got a bit energetic & strong once we started to actually jump. I should probably point out that when I say she's energetic &strong, to an outsider she probably looks perfectly normal. She doesn't bolt off or rush fences or anything. Its more like she puts way more force than is necessary into everything- every jump, every transition, etc. is infused with excess energy, and sometimes tension, but I digress. So we started with the final vertical at 3'-3'3, but the exercise wasn't really achieving the desired goal, so I popped the vertical up a few holes & we jumped through it again. This time, Cadence was brilliant! Its like she needs the extra height to focus... Anywho, the final dimensions for the oxer were 4' wide by 2'3 tall, and the vertical was 4' tall.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Out and About

With show season just around the corner, Cadence and I have been trying to get off property & get some stadium schooling done. Unfortunately, a combination of awful weather & busy schedules has prevented us from going xc yet, but I'm trying my best to limit how much I complain about the weather, so lets move on.
We were able to trailer out for a SJ school last Sunday, in spite of the rather cold (read: below freezing) and very wet weather, and hopefully we'll be able to head over to another friends farm this Friday to get some more jumping work in Although we have jumps at home, we don't really have the capacity to set courses & such out, so these spring stadium schools are really important for us to practice our course work!

Last Sunday's school actually went really well. There were 3 large puddles in the farm's jumper ring (which conveniently had the nicest footing of all of their outdoors that day) but aside from that the footing was actually quite nice- well drained & not sloppy at all. So we just avoided the puddles (at first at least) and started our warm up. Cadence had decided that the one end of the ring, where the jump cart & a wheelbarrow were located, was clearly trying to eat her... so we spent most of our warm ip focusing on that corner. Cadence is a bit unique in that if she has an issue with something, the ONLY way to address it is immediately. You probably won't be able to convince her that whatever she's worrying about is undeserving of her mistrust or consternation, but at least you stand a chance. If you ignore the issue and attempt to continue her work in another area, she uses the time to build up her fear and anxiety to epic proportions, so if you plan on staying on... scary objects/corners must be addressed immediately.
Anyway, mare-face warmed up a bit jittery but sane. We had breaks & steering, so what more can you ask for? The actual jumping part went pretty well too. We started off just jumping one fence on a circle until that was sane, and them moved on to some course work. The first two courses were acceptable, but not exactly put together. However, after that Cadence and I seemed to hit our stride, literally and figuratively. We did hairpin turns, intense roll-backs, awesome angled fences, and I gave up on avoiding the puddles so we splashed straight through those too :) The only real issue we had was that Cadence really wanted to lay on me, especially on that right rein, and it took some pretty harsh corrections to get her off of it. Overall though it was a really great school & affirmed my decision to ride in a jumper show or two this summer!

*as a side note, all of this was typed on my phone. Sorry for the general lack of editing (not that ver edit this to begin with) & for all the typos that are probably in here!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Adventure Time: Spring Hacks

Note: this is an old post (from last Wed) that didn't want to upload the first time I tried.

Yesterday I trailered Cadence out to a place just 15-20 minutes down the road from us that I used to ride in all the time as a kid. As its spring, the ground was a bit wet and we spent a fair bit of our time walking along the main gravel path versus off in the forest, but we still had a blast. Over all we walked around the park for nearly an hour before turning around just in time to arrive home as the sun was setting :)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Issues With Blogger

Recently I've been having a bunch of issues with posts I think I've posted not appearing on my blog.  It tends to be posts with photos done from my phone that aren't showing up, so I think it may have something to do with trying to upload larger files from my phone.  Nonetheless, the issue's starting to really frustrate me.  Does anyone (who uses an iPhone) have any blogging apps they'd recommend? I've heard good things about BlogPress, but am hesitant to spend my money on it unless its really worth it. Admittedly it is only $2.99... but if it's no better than what I get for free, that's three bucks that could be better spent!

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Light as Air"

Time is of the essence on this one, so pardon the briefness. Saturday morning, amidst a weekend full of concerts (and an unfortunate hospital visit...) I managed to find time for a quick riding lesson- the last I'll ever have at my current farm :(
On a brighter note though, the lesson was brilliant. Cadence warmed up in the loveliest stretch trot, complete with lateral and longitudinal suppleness, and didn't take advantage of my lengthened reins once! When the actual work started, we focused on keeping her soft and light through transitions: within the gait, into and out of the trot, in & out of lateral work, etc. At the moment, Cadence will cruise around softly and light as a feather until you ask for a change... at which point she tenses up a bit until she can decide how she feels about what you're asking her to do next. This tension tends to be largely longitudinal, and if I can half-halt in time and correct it we can generally stop it from ever becoming lateral tension. That said, I tend to jump the gun and immediately correct for lateral stiffness as well, essentially making a correction for an error she hasn't even made yet.
Isolating this issue in my riding turned out to be a major revelation for me. A combination of watching what exactly I'm correcting her for, and focusing on increasing her responsiveness to my half-halts in the moments she wants to tune me out, has allowed us to finally make some progress on our canter-trot transitions for the first time in nearly a month! By riding my half-halts more effectively (and actually using the strong half-halts...) and not correcting for nonexistent lateral stiffness, we're starting to get much nicer transitions.
The other homework I was given was to do a few sets of canter-trots with draws on to stop her barging through my half-halts. I know some people don't like draw reins, and I tend to be one of those people, but they're a far more effective training aid than say a martingale for a horse that's jutting out their nose to avoid the contact, (like Cadence was when she'd get fed up and run through my aid) because you can come off them completely when you don't need them, and alter the 'intensity' of your correction when you do. I put them on for the canter work and ride it like the curb on a double, and when we did this tonight she was brilliant! I only touched them twice, and had them loose for most of the work but they stopped her getting through my aid without a fight, and if I can get through a tantrum without having to boot her or haul on her mouth I'm all for it :)

The flip side to this new found stretchy work and improved canter-trot transitions is that her canter (and trot-canters) have improved immensely! It feels like I'm riding a trained horse at long last ;) We'll warm up the canter, and the all I have to do is occasionally check her balance, or her tempo, or perhaps her bend/alignment, and she cruises around in a light as air. Her upwards transitions are so sensitive, you just shift your weight and think and she does it. The flip side to this is that I have to be careful. I want to make sure that even if my leg isn't doing much, its still positioned for the aid so that she understands that leg is still part of the cue... which hasn't been an issue so far, but I'd like to make sure it never becomes one. Sensitive is one thing- hypersensitive is another entirely. Regardless though, its mighty fun riding a 'trained horse' even if its just the beginning!

Also, ponies went out without blankets for the first time today!! Spring really is here!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Life Stuff

Midterm exams, music projects, 'social initiative' type projects, school, social stuff, personal/family stuff, and sometimes even horses... all manage to 'get in the way' of horses/my riding.  And I find myself not necessarily wanting to go to the barn. I'm always happy when I get there, but in terms of leaving the house (or wherever I'm stationed before heading to the barn) I just lack motivation to move. To put it simply, my brain would rather spend the time sleeping.  And all of that fades away the second I step out of the car and walk into the barn, I hate feeling anything less than positively thrilled about heading out to see my mare.
By the end of April, life should start to right itself again for me... I hope... and maybe if I'm lucky, I can even get into a regular weekly schedule. Gasp! How normal and relaxed that tall seems.  That's probably a tad optimistic though, so lets not get too excited.
In horse-related news, I still haven't decided if I'm moving barns. I've looked around a bit, but most of the good options are either full, too expensive, or don't allow outside coaches... so the search continues. (for current barn options, and for my move in Sept.) Cadence continues to do well though, and is on track to head to our first show of the season on the 21 of April! Its just a CT, but (footing/weather permitting) they generally offer a XC school after, so it should be good fun!
Also, my blogging through April may be a bit spotty.  Not for a lack of content, but simply a lack of time. Then again, when is content ever the issue?  And since I can't think of a summary/conclusion for this, I'll just end here. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Evening Hacks

The ground is finally suitable to ride on, so Cadence and I have been capping the last few rides off with evening hacks :)