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!!!