Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lots of updates...

So since my last entry about 3 weeks ago much has happened both in my horse life and real life.
In my personal life I started a new job at a popular online tack shop called "Bit of Britain". So far its been pretty good and I think its going to be a great learning opportunity for me on several different fronts. I've already learned about the various different kinds of crops/whips and their uses. Who knew that there were like a hundred different kinds of crops? So I'm excited to see what the future holds for me there and for what God has in store.

On the horsey side I've had some great opportunities to do some fun stuff lately, I've had a chance to take one of my barn's horses and get a practice ride in (something I hadn't done up until this point). So I was riding out in the ring all by myself, something I've never done so I was quite proud being out there practicing and coming up with things to do all alone. Although Balley did whinny at one of his friends (which freaked me out for a second) all went well.
Shortly after that my trainer moved on to another farm, after what I believe where several months of this being in the works, she and a friend of hers leased a local farm and are now running things exclusively on their own. So needless to say I had to leave 2 friends behind at my old barn; Gwen and Sophie.
Gwen was the very first horse I ever rode in an official lesson and I rode her for the first month or two of my riding career. She is getting up there in years and I hope she can enjoy out the rest of her life. The I had to leave my dear pal Sophie behind as well. Both of those horses belonged to the owner at the barn that I rode at and did not belong to my trainer so they have not gone with her to the new place. I have to admit that I am a bit sad about losing Sophie as a riding partner (& teacher), although I've been riding Balley, I felt like I overcame so many beginning riding fears on her, like learning to take my first canter steps and jump over my first cross rails. So its with a bit of sadness that I leave my old barn to follow my instructor who after a year has brought me so unbelievably far with my riding.

I also celebrated my 1 year anniversary as a rider (maybe that should be for another post) and I just can't believe looking back, how much I've learned and how far I've come and yet how very far I have yet to go.

Finally for the first time today I rode a horse that is not a lesson horse at my barn but instead a horse of someone's that I met at a riding club that I joined recently. This was the first time that I felt like a rider and not just a student in a lesson but at the same time felt so much like the beginner that I am. I have heard from so many people that horse's humble you and I believe that first hand. Just when you think you are confident or good with something they say "I'll show you" and they do. So I rode this other horse to try her and see if I could use her for riding club outings and I'm still undecided on her. I felt like she may be a bit advanced for me and a bit more excited than I'm used to but maybe she's been put in my life to stretch me as a rider out a bit. Am I up for the challenge? Time will tell. I know she has lots to teach me. The amazing part is the person that I met even offered to let me take a few lessons on her with my trainer so I'll be talking to my trainer about trailering her in a few times. I'm really excited about this opportunity as its been one that I've been praying for, a chance to ride more without investing in my own horse yet (I'm not ready).

Wow! much has happened over these few weeks and I still haven't written my actual riding notes.

My next post will be about celebrating my 1 year anniversary as a rider.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Can't think of a good title...

My husband came and videoed my lesson last week and I will try to add those to this post tonight.

Anyway last week's lesson consisted of more circles, which I actually think mine were pretty good, figure 8's and some keyhole (a game). I again rode Balley and I had a chance to canter him around the ring this time. The first time I rode him we only did some small circles so I could get a feel for his canter. He was very happy to be able to go a bit faster and I had to really work on half halting him so he wouldn't run away with me. Otherwise he has a nice canter and I think once we got things going it actually looked pretty nice. One thing that I have a hard time with him on is that when he is about to canter he drops his head which in turn tends to pull me forward. Need to watch for that this week.

I was still struggling with keeping my diagonals and then changing them nicely at the figure 8. I keep forgetting when it is I'm supposed to be out of the saddle (outside leg out/butt out of saddle).

My leg seemed to be drifting back too and we thought maybe the knee rolls on the saddle might be too big and might be pushing my leg back a bit so I'll try a different saddle this week.

We also played a game called keyhole which was actually fun although I would have rather spent the time jumping but because I forgot to put balley's splints on we decided to skip it. This week can't forget those.

So I've also been thinking more and more about buying my own horse. I've started doing some research on that. I really would like to lease though first but I think there is some uncertainty on whether my trainer is going to stay at this barn so I'm trying to weather that out a bit before I commit to a lease. I am also starting a new job in a couple of weeks with lots of horsey people so I am hoping to pick their brains a bit. I would really like to get more riding time in with one horse that I can really work with, maybe balley is that horse, who knows? Hopefully the next few weeks will bring some answers and I'll be able to move forward on that.

I will try and add those videos later...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Friday July 25th

Finally after almost 3 weeks without a lesson I was able to get a lesson in!!!! I was so excited to finally get onto a horse again.
I took a private lesson and rode Balley, an Arabian, that is 21 years old but is still frisky for his age.

I have never ridden him before but he was alot of fun and am actually hoping to ride him again. He is much smaller than Sophie and is much more sensitive to the aids so that was actually nice for me. Didn't seem to sweat quite as much ;)
We started out with some leg yields, then trotting rectangles, then some figure 8's, which for some reason I really struggle with. I know what an 8 looks like in my head but when it comes to doing one on a horse I really have a hard time. Also worked on keeping Balley constantly turning and keeping a nice bend. I had a breakthrough and finally starting listening to my trainer when she said OPEN your OUTSIDE rein! Oh, you mean that outside rein??? So you want me to open my outside rein, keep my inside shoulder down, change diagonals in the middle of the 8, keep my ankles down, and pull my inside rein a little and post properly???? Oh is that it? Easy....
When I finally started doing that he started to bend a bit more easily and things looked a bit better.

Then on to some cantering... Balley pulls a bit forward when going into the canter so that took a few tries on my part to understand and give him some more rein. Once we got going he had a great canter, very smooth and light. My trainer said my canter looked great, very relaxed and that my hands were very soft. A great compliment in my book.

On another note, I am leaving my current job and going to start working at Bit of Britain late next month. I am going to take over some of the buying responsibility that John Nunn, the owner, currently takes care of and I will start doing some business analysis/planning for them. I am quite excited as I am hopefully going to be able to merge my passion for horses with my experience as a buyer. So as that job gets started I'll keep everyone up to date on that and maybe give some tips/advice/coming soon info on tack!

So I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that no storms hit us on Wednesday...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Summer storms...

So the weather has become my arch nemesis lately. For some reason it has been deciding to storm every Wednesday afternoon which is my group lesson day....grrrr. So that is the reason my blogs have been slow since today was my first real lesson in about 3 weeks!!!
I did go on a trail ride which was nice and I got to ride the biggest horse in our barn, Ponch, a TB.! That was a bit scary for me but I'm here and I survived.
Anway, I will update on today's lesson tomorrow because its getting late but wanted to keep everyone updated on why there haven't been any posts lately...

See you tomorrow

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Long time, no blog...

Ok so I've had 2 lessons since my last blog. I need to get better about putting my notes down immediately after my lesson.
Anyway, here goes trying to recall what happened at my private lesson last Friday. It was hot, that I definitely remember well. I rode Sophie and we concentrated on my leg placement which is pretty not good at this point. I need to work on keeping my toes out and not relying so much on the knee role (I tend to rest my legs in there too much). In addition getting the squeezing down is becoming my biggest challenge to date so we did alot of trotting even without stirrups which was very hard. I mean how in the world does one post the trot without using stirrups????

My leg placement did seem to improve with no stirrups though so although it was hard it did help me to feel where the correct placement should be. This is definitely an exercise that is worth repeating.

So needless to say alot of my energy now is really getting to focus on my legs and using them to propel Sophie forward.

I had my regular group lesson yesterday and the one thing that I am really noticing now after almost a year of riding is just how much I've learned this year. In August I'll have to do a little run down of all that I've accomplished in just one short year of riding (I'll save that for another blog)
One of the big things is how much more comfortable I am on the ground with horses and especially with Sophie. I am actually able to help other riders at this point in showing them how to groom and tack up so that is making me feel much more confident.
I have also been spending a good part of the last year reading alot of horsey books and I think that's contributed alot to my confidence as well. I'm always trying to learn more about being a better rider and just about horses in general.

I'm in the middle of a great book right now called "In Service to the Horse" by Susan Nusser. It follows the life of 3 professional grooms and it is a great horsey read.

So back to the lesson notes, yesterday consisted of transitions, trotting rectangles, cantering and maintaining it, keeping Sophie out on the rail at a canter and doing some small jumps. As usual controlling Sophie (having her focus on me) and my form at the trot are the things I'm really working on right now.

Next week, my instructor said we would spend doing mostly jumping. Yeah!!

ooh, I almost of the boarders was watching our lesson with her husband and as I was riding by they said "you look great up there". I was really excited because I am not a good rider and often feel like I probably look like a mess out there. I need to get more video...

On another note, I have a job interview at a tack shop next week so I'll be sure to keep everyone updated as to what happens with that. That would probably be an amazing way for me to learn ALOT more about horses and their gear.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Leg yields, circles and cantering, oh my!

Ok so I think that this is going to be the theme of my next few lessons. I actually enjoy doing alot of flatwork which I know most people seem to detest, favoring the much more exciting jumping.

Flatwork in my opinion really forces you to work hard, concentrate, and learn to communicate more effectively with your partner. All things I need to work on. It seems like lately leg yields are something we fit into my lessons almost every time. Sophie is a draft cross and a very hefty girl who requires a lot of leg to keep her from spiraling into the middle of the ring so we've really been working on that.

So we did some leg yields in both directions in this Wednesday evening group lesson, attemepted to lengthen and shorten our strides (emphasis on attempted), circled around some barrels that were up for a fun show (without using reins, which is very hard) and did some canter work. In a group lesson I can defenitly see the herd mentality come out as Sophie eagerly canters up to any horse in front of her (much different than in a private where I'm pushing on her on).

I worked on getting the correct lead, sitting back and transitioning down more smoothly.

The things I need to continue working on are getting my legs in the correct position when posting the trot (toes out, bending at the knees, squeezing) and getting on the correct diagnol immediately. I find I disregard this and have been now told that "I am way too good of a rider to not be checking and getting on the correct diagnol immediatly". So from now on this is going to be on the top of my list of things to be on guard for as it designed to not only help me as a rider but to correctly balance my horse.

In addition I've been "training" Sophie to more quickly give me her hooves when I pick them out. Grapes are my new best friend and so now when she quickly picks up her hoof she gets a grape and praise for that. I went through a period where she would not want to pick up her front right hoof for me and it was quite frustrating. For the last couple of weeks that I've been doing my grape method she is more quickly responding to my cue to pick up her leg. I figured I'd continue rewarding her with treats for a couple of more weeks and then start to only give them to her once in a while. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friday Private lesson

I have not had time until now to record my notes from my lesson on Friday. It's been quite a busy weekend although it wasn't supposed to be. I'll fill people in in case anyone out there is interested.
In addition to riding and endlessly scouring the net for fun horsey info I also have spent the last 6 months volunteering as a foal sitter at the New Bolton center for Large animals. For people who are not from this area it is the veternary hospital of UPenn and the place that Barbaro, of race horse fame, was cared for after his unfortunate accident in the Preakness.
So yesterday I spent 8 hours helping out there with a 3 month old foal who had gotten stuck in a fence and now had brain damage, poor girl:( She was really had an uphill battle and her owners were only giving her a couple more days to improve. I really hope that thinks look up for her. She was a Welsh Pony and mom was there with her, too cute.

So that was my Saturday. Even though I was exhausted I love helping out with animals and being around horses anyway I can so it was great and I'm a bit sad that the foal season is over for this year, although I'm sure my husband is doing a happy dance.

Back to my notes on my lesson, I rode Sophie (my usual riding partner) and we concentrated on moving her forward at a steady upbeat trot, keeping her focused on me, and doing lots of leg yields to keep her from creeping in towards the middle. I struggle with those but have seen alot of improvement since I started running with my leg strength (which you need with a big draftie) and my flexibility. After these we went into serpentines. I actually love doing flat work because I really think that it just helps to really perfect your riding and learn to really communicate with your partner.
We tried cantering a small circle without too much success so we took it back out to the rail. My reins slipped and I just lost my focus on keeping her in one contained area. I was also struggling a bit with just getting her to not break out of the canter.

The major area that my instructor said that I need to really focus on is getting my posting trot to look smooth and not forced with my knees bending and squeezing when I sit. I have seen it done correctly lots of times but really have to focus on doing it correctly myself. I struggle with "kicking" too much and not squeezing so on

Wednesday that is something I will personally be focusing on.
We did do a couple of small jumps at the end of the lesson, the 2nd try went better than the first with Sophie being more forward and actually "jumping" it. My instructor said that my form was really good over the jump though.

A group lesson this week and another private on Friday as well as working at the barn all afternoon should prove for another horsey week.

Oh and I almost forgot to tell everyone that I got to see a mare be artificially inseminated too! It was actually gross but cool at the same time and just makes me stand in awe at what animals let us do to them...

Monday, June 16, 2008

2 Lessons in one week!

So I squeezed in another lesson this week on Saturday. I was supposed to be going on a trail ride with our niece but that ended up not working out so I put that money into a private lesson on what was a quite hot and humid Saturday afternoon but the lesson was good so it was worth sweating my butt off in the hot sun. I think this was one of the only times that I remember being at the barn on a Saturday and there was almost no one there except my trainer, which was great. I love going to the barn (very relaxing for me) and I especially love it when there aren't a million other people trying to do their thing.

The only downside is that with hot humid weather you get TONS of flies and they were out in full force...wreaking havoc on Dreamer.

So on my tour de horses I rode another horse this time, Dreamer, a QH paint gelding. This was the first gelding I've ever ridden and I liked it. Horses all seem different to me so I have yet to see the main difference between a mare and a gelding while riding.

Dreamer has his issues and needs to be groomed and tacked in his stall which is a bit scary for me. The idea of big horse and little me in little stall still makes me a bit nervous but he was as sweet as could be and it worked out fine. He is used to that so I think I was more nervous about it then he was. He gets nervous when getting tacked up so my instructor did that since this was my first time riding him. I tightened his girth (very slowly) down in the ring and he was a good boy for that.

We went out to our dressage ring in the field and did some w/t and really focused on keeping my hands low and at the withers, last time we focused alot on leg position so maybe one of these days I'll get them both right at the same time. Dreamer was getting really annoyed with these flies that kept wanting to eat him so he was not paying attention at all and kept trying to kick them off, to which my response was in the form of one too many "oh my gosh's" for my instructor who kindly proceeded to tell me to not do that anymore.

After a few too many minutes of not paying attention my instructor decided it was time for her to get on and show him a thing or two about being a good school horse ;) I have to work on getting the horse to refocus on their job and not get distracted by whatever else is around.

Needless to say Dreamer perked up and forgot all about the aforementioned flies after that and we were off to a good lesson. Continuing to work on doing 20 meter circles and some figure 8's ( which I think i've mentioned I love). Dreamer did a couple of nice ones at the end there and was turning nicely. He actually got on the bit for a second or 2 as well, all tiny but large accomplishments for a new rider.

We went back into the ring to canter and I'm working VERY hard on staying seated and just allowing my hips to go with the motion. A consequence of not doing that is that my inner thigh kept hitting the pommel and now I have a nice bruise there to remind me daily of my poor form. In addition trying hard to keep my shoulders back and not lean too far forward. My transitions also need work so we did quite a few of those and kept trying to get the correct lead which led to many "let's do that again".

Back in the barn Dreamer enjoyed a nice sponge down and walk (more like walk/graze/me pulling/walk/graze/repeat) and some apples and sugar cubes. Sophie got some too of course! Missing her a bit these days since I haven't ridden her in a couple of weeks (maybe I'll take her out in my Friday lesson).

Still working on putting video up here. Need to see where my hubby has them on his computer and how I can place them here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 11th Lesson

So after several super hot and steamy days the beautiful weather is back which makes for happy people and happier horses. I ended up at a private lesson last night because the one other person that was going to be in my lesson moved to an earlier one, so it was just me, which was great.

I rode a different horse last night, Gwen, who I rode when I first started riding (all that time ago...;). She is some kind of an Appaloosa cross, I believe, and is definitely getting up their in years, somewhere around 19 or 20. She can be a bit poky but once she gets going she has a nice trot and canter.

So, I really spent time working on starting to get my form better. Sitting up straighter with my shoulders up and my legs at the right place. Once I got going it felt great and I really felt like I was getting her to move along a bit better.

We also worked on figure 8's which I think will take me a while to master and make look really smooth and perfect. In addition I had never worn half chaps before so my instructor let me use hers and it really helped my legs to stick at the canter. That sticking helped me to really focus on my seat and my hands (sit back!, lower your hands!). I sometimes feel like I'll never be able to do all of those things and make it look effortless out there. I don't know who was sweating more, me or Gwen?

Our last canter around the ring really started to feel a bit better and my transition felt a tiny bit better too. Transitioning to the walk is something else we worked on. I really need to just put my all my weight down on my seat so I'm going to work on that tomorrow.

Well, I'll be at another private lesson tomorrow. two lessons in one week? I am getting a bit spoiled, 2 lessons next week too!!! Could we be starting a trend?

I will try and post video from my lesson too (Sometimes my cameraman and his assistant come to my lesson; aka my husband and son)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Yesterday, stormy, no riding lesson :(

So the summer is officially here (although it's still spring) and the storms have begun. So due to said storm there was no riding lesson but I did get to breifly talk to my trainer about setting some goals (sort of). I don't actually think we got to the goals part as much as I told her that I wanted to start competing and learning more about general horse care. So she said I should start taking more private lessons (cha-ching, my husband's heart starts to pound ever more quickly) and help her with 4-H which she recently started at her barn. Did i somehow get fenagled into this?

So although there was no official lesson so nothing to report on that front I did talk to my instructor which was one of my goals. I AM going to go to the 4-H meeting on Sunday night and then we'll schedule a private for early next week. What am I getting myself into? For now I will add a private lesson, hopefully 1-2x per month and see where things go from there.

I will probably start getting ready for a barn show doing some w/t/c equitation. Although I would consider my barn an eventing barn I think I want to go more towards the hunter/jumper way (don't know how this will effect me staying there long term). I just don't see myself as an eventer (way too scary for me), althought I do love watching it.

My next goal is to try to get more FREE riding time in...already have a post on COH and will talk to my instructor about this as well on Sunday.
Can I exchange my husband's web design skills in for free riding for me? That remains to be seen. Little did he ever think he'd be working to sustain my crazy horse habit...;)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Putting some goals on paper?

So after getting some great advice on the Chronicle of the Horse forums (my new favorite site), I am going to have to put some real thought into my riding and what I would like to get out of it. Since one of my goals is to sit down with my instructor in the next few weeks and discuss where I want to take my riding, I figured I should probably figure that out first.
I've posted a question out there on the COH forum for people to help me set some realistic goals and already one person responded with some great advice. She said I should be able to do a whole list of things on the ground before moving to showing (which right now I believe is one of my goals).
So I am taking all of those into account; leading, turning out, tacking, bathing, hoof care, nutrition, loading and unloading from a trailer, correcting a horse that is not respecting your space (really need to work on this), establishing an idependent seat at the walk/trot/canter, becoming comfortable on a get the drift.
So my first goal is make sure that I can put a check mark next to these (I already can on several of them, yeah!)
Another goal I have is to be able to smoothly transition between a walk into a canter and from a trot into a canter and back down to a trot/walk. Right now these are very choppy for me.
One more (maybe these are too many?), to be able to stay on the correct diagonal and to get the correct lead at the canter (will I ever be able to do this?)
After this I think my next goal will be to do a local hunter/jumper schooling show in Spring 09
then maybe look into leasing a horse...?

These are just some prelim thoughts right now...of course I'm also thinking about moving barns which you can learn about that dilemma on the forum as well...who knew riding would be this much work??? Lucky for me I love every minute of it!!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Starting a new blog... again

Ok so I'm starting my newest blog. I've had several i've started and for some reason just can't seem to keep up with it. So maybe since this is going to just be a way for me keep notes on my riding I'll actually do it.

I have actually been riding since August 07 so i'm a bit behind in journaling about my progression but hey better late then never. I started riding at the ripe old age of 30 ;). I had never ridden before except for a few trail rides here and there. We moved to this more horsey part of the country almost 2 years ago and after longingly driving by tons of horse farms everyday I decided I wanted to start taking some lessons therefore starting my riding career.

At this point I am riding 1x/per week (group lesson) at a local lesson barn and reading tons of books on horses and riding.
I have been riding a perch/quarter horse cross mare for about the last 6-7 months named Sophie. That is her on the picture with me.
She is a sweetie who does not like other horses (makes mean faces when they get too close) and is allergic to grass. She is quite the princess and is teaching me alot about horses and riding.

I am starting this blog so that I can keep a record of what I am doing each week at my lessons or anything else horsey I do.
I had a lesson last night at 6:30 with 2 other people. Great weather, 65 degrees and sunny.

We warmed up by doing some shortening and lengthening exercises then went into figure 8's over poles. Grrr, don't really like those since sometimes Sophie has a mind of her own. I was pretty much sweating the whole time trying to keep her moving at a nice trot the whole way.
At this point I can walk/trot (still working on keeping those darn diagonols). Sometimes I think I hear someone saying "watch your diagonols" in my sleep! I am also cantering at this point but not always very nicely. Still trying to get a handle on all the correct aids and just forget the leads (haven't gotten those yet).

In regards to jumping, I am trotting over small cross rails and have just in the last 2 weeks started cantering over short cross rails. Fun!!!!

Next week I am supposed to be focusing on leg yields to try and push Sophie from crouching into the middle and am working on turns on the foreleg ( I think that is what it's called). All more stuff to get her to listen to my aids I assume. All tedious groundwork that I know is essential in good riding but is just not that fun.

All for now...