Friday, July 31, 2015

july confo - just under the wire!

I realized yesterday that there was only one day left in July and I had yet to take our monthly confo shot (as per my quarterly goals). Luckily Isabel happened to be standing almost well all on her own in the aisle. Phew, crisis averted!

july 2015
This pic is still kind of misleading, tho, bc I'm facing her on an angle, putting her hind end closer to the camera and therefore making it appear larger. You also can't see the peaked SI as clearly in this pic, but trust me: it's still there.  

My focus of late has been her hind end and back, and I'm not really seeing much change yet (not unexpected) or even since May. But I think there have been some improvements since April - which obviously makes sense given our return to work since the quarantine.

And actually, one difference is that she's not holding her tail to the right in these July pics, whereas she is in every other picture. Could be purely coincidence, or it could be related to the chiro/acupuncture work

july 2015
june 2015
may 2015
april 2015

**ALSO - totally unrelated, but c'mon ppl where are the pano fail pictures?!? Lol I had all these high hopes of being showered with ridiculous and horrifying images while stuck at a conference, and so far it's been pretty quiet. Tho the two bloggers who linked up so far certainly did NOT disappoint (thanks Erin and Sarah!). 

And we're not super picky about the criteria for entries - meaning really any failed photo will suffice, pano or otherwise :) So let's see your pics! There's 2-ish weeks left to linkup!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

and the rails fly!

Despite not getting as much saddle time as I would have liked in preparation for our weekly lesson (especially considering Isabel's brief vacation while I was in Nola), things actually went pretty well! It was wretched hot out, but Kaitlyn (from Something to Talk About Eventing) and I were determined to make the best of it.

izzy got some air!
We warmed ourselves up while Dan set fences. I wasn't totally thrilled with our trot work to be honest - Isabel felt a little resistant and I was sort of taking my time trying to work through it. Isabel repaid these efforts by giving me a *very* lovely left lead canter transition (our easier side right now) exactly when Dan glanced over. Score! 

she claimed the bugs were eating her alive. i was not particularly sympathetic haha
After circling at the canter briefly, he told us that was probably a good enough warm up given how hot it was. Part of me would have liked to give the right lead a go too... but yea it was pretty hot out and we wanted to JUMP!

yes, this - i like doing this!
We warmed up over a coop that was just off the center line a few times - and Dan wanted us feeling for whichever lead the horse landed on and turning that direction. But he specifically did NOT want us influencing the lead - just feeling for it. Meaning Isabel and I predominantly circled right haha. 

some of the turns were wicked, but this exercise actually rode REALLY nicely
(i don't know the exact measurements, but the striding was set pretty easy)
Then we moved on to the exercise: an odd triangle of jumps set up more or less in the middle of the arena. The line from blue coop to brown natural rode in a very easy 6, tho that didn't stop me from adding the first time, and nearly leaving a stride out the second... Dan said he likes 6 stride lines for that exact reason: there's enough space to show you whether you've got it right or not, compared to a 4 stride line that might be harder to mess up. 

we like little coops too
Next we added the diagonals - slicing the orange/yellow single to ride a straight line to either the natural or the coop, depending on which direction you were going. This required jumping both fences on a fairly severe angle, and Isabel definitely questioned it the first time - but really it rode much better than I expected in an easy 3. The key for us was the whole 'turning off the outside aids' thing that we very recently figured out. Exciting haha.

tho isabel does NOT like it when i cut my corners with no supporting leg... nope nope not good
The wheels kinda started falling off when we turned the diagonals around - starting from either the coop or natural and going to the orange/yellow. In particular, that left lead turn from natural to orange/yellow was WICKED. 

My first time through I *knew* we weren't on our line yet, but I was already having to look back over my shoulder so I turned anyway. It clearly didn't work haha, sorry Isabel!! You'll see in the video how much deeper I went into the corner before turning in later (more successful) efforts.

you can sorta get a sense of the angle here
Part of the problem was that I settled a bit too much. We continued the same process from my last lesson of establishing a nice walk, then nice trot, THEN nice canter - and so far that seems to be working for us. But simultaneously I forgot the other part of that same lesson: we need leg leg leg around the turns so I can see my distance out of the corner and settle to the fence, rather than dying in the corners then trying to gun it to the fence. Oops. 

dan doesn't like gappy distances for a reason! (note the flying rail)
It was kind of unfortunate bc really the lesson had been going smoothly up to this point, and then I started running Isabel into the fences and we were both already a little tired so it took me a hot minute to sort it back out again.

isabel slices and dices (when i give her the room she needs... and also don't throw myself up her neck...)
She's a forgiving mare tho, and when I corrected myself she easily followed suit. Throughout the lesson I was thinking about being softer with my hands and arms - keeping them more consistently forward (no pulling to the base!) - and keeping that 'bounce' in my heels that trainer P talked about last week. The whole point is to quiet my upper body a little bit and avoid leaning so far up Isabel's neck all the time. 

i like leaning, what else can i say?
But while there were definitely moments when I felt quieter, they typically coincided with the moments when I took off my leg and we flubbed the fences. Per my usual wavering-between-extremes self, I need to find the balance. 

Right now adding a lot of leg creates a busy upper body (which you will see in our final effort on the video) - but that leg is critical as the fences go up. So for now I'm just gonna have to start there, keep that leg on, and hopefully quiet down the upper body in time. 

It's kind of funny really - the video makes the lesson look a little rougher than it actually was. And nearly has me wondering if I should add this to my ever-growing category of 'fail' posts. But I'm not gonna. You know why? Because this was actually a pretty great ride. Sure we made mistakes but they were always pretty obvious and were easily fixed. 

Right now it's really easy for me to tell when we've got it right. It's less easy to see when our canter *isn't* where it needs to be -- until we get to the fence at a craptastic distance. Eventually I'll be able to better assess our canter earlier on... one day haha. 

every lesson should end this way!
So yea, after taking care of our saintly horses, Kaitlyn and I were able to hang out with celebratory and oh-so-refreshing beers (post-hydrating, like ya do) and watch some other friends ride. Barn time at it's best, right?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

RoW Hop: Everyday Win

Thanks Firn for saving me from scaring up new content while pulling together details etc. from last night's lesson! 

After all the many participants in Nicole's 'Everyday Fail' blog hop, Firn took the natural next step to our everyday wins, writing: So let's pull out some schooling (or unaffiliated schooling show) photos we're proud of. Moments where our horses are taking steps to greatness; where they may be a long way from the blue ribbon, but advancing on the right path.

This obviously appeals to me as it's in line with my constructive criticism v. public shaming ideas, wherein our proudest moments aren't always our prettiest - and that's totally fine. 

So again, to pull from the archives, some of my favorite (recent-ish) moments where Isabel's really getting it done and making me proud: 

We spent the whole winter hauling out to various indoors trying to stay in some semblance of regular work, and Isabel seriously rose to each occasion. She showed up for work every time, making the springtime transition to real full work effortless. 
Even our first cross country schooling of the year was leaps and bounds beyond where we finished last fall! She remembered exactly what was up and was ready to play :)
Same goes for lessons: she's been happy to keep pushing the envelope, even when I'm not always riding my best.
While our water demons aren't really conquered, she's making great strides here. Practicing in familiar water complexes has helped her be a little braver about new water - like at Fair Hill when she really just went right in with minimal pause.
So I did have to include one show pic bc... well, we moved up to BN!! Isabel came out of the winter operating at an entirely new and better level, and it's done so much for my confidence that I've started raising my eyes to higher heights. Pretty exciting stuff! 
Sadly we have very few progress pics of our flat work outside of shows - but really the developments here have been just as impressive. Isabel has proven to be incredibly willing and obedient - two words I would have NEVER used to describe her when I first met her. And yet, here we are. Now it's up to me to capitalize on it :)

What about you - what are your everyday wins with your horse?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

in which isabel is adorable (and therefore gets away with murder)

The weather has not been super cooperative for much schooling before tonight's lesson - especially given my recently re-learned theory that Isabel needs consistent routine to keep the buttons from getting rusty. (She's never really bad or wild, per se... but is at her most brilliant when she's been working well with regularity).

i love her expression here: like she's questioning every decision that led to getting stuck with a weirdo like me
Plus trainer P recently admonished me to 'expect more' from Isabel. I have ideas on how to make it a reality (like working harder to get nice transitions the FIRST time, rather than going back for a second attempt), but haven't had much opportunity to actually try. 

Tho, conversely I have to be careful with directives like this to avoid slipping into bully-mode of "You will do this thing NOW bc I expect it!" Certainly there has to be balance, right? 

see what i mean? she's not quite sure how she got to this place lol
Currently I'm a bit of an enabler. I don't push for much outside of lessons (when I have a trainer making sure all is well) with regard to bend, steadiness and acceptance of the bridle, and Isabel's own accountability. And Isabel is happy to trit-trot around on the very edge of fancy that keeps me satisfied, but without truly working at full capacity.

The accountability thing is particularly interesting to me - and was made glaringly clear when I rode Austen's Pig. We were cantering along in what felt like a pretty decent manner - esp considering the sloppiness with which I asked him to canter. So when Austen suggested we transition down to trot, I channeled my innermost quiet rider and just tightened my core and tried to squeeze him down, no hands. Sounds good right? 

But what did I get instead of trot? Um, actually a MUCH nicer canter. Like, whoa - THAT was the canter I should have had all along. Ah half halts, you magical mystical little beasts... 

enabling is bad, emma!
So what does this have to do with Isabel and accountability? My default approach to cantering is leg leg leg. Always and forever amen. Meaning any hesitation or sucking back or anything gets leg. Isabel can't canter more than 2-3 strides without me nudging her. But isn't 'more leg' the answer to everything? Well, yes but also kinda no.

C has already told me multiple times that I should be able to put Isabel in a gear and leave her there until I ask for something different. Makes sense conceptually but I've struggled to put it into action. But after riding a horse like Pig who is accustomed to exactly that, and feeling what a quiet half halt could accomplish, vs all my noisy nudging... well, I have renewed energy to fix this haha.  

but she's just so stinkin cute... and i love our little routines
(even if being allowed to itch her unbridled face is actually a terrible habit that i wouldn't let other horses do... funny how we let our own creatures get away with things that are not tolerated elsewhere. or is that just me?)
Probably what this means is that we're going to see a lot more breaking in the canter, at least initially. Isabel is going to make that mistake bc she's accustomed to me carrying her along and doing the work for her. But I just need to be ready to correct it (tactfully!) and then shut up again. She's a smart cookie - she'll figure it out. 

And perhaps this will be the change needed to finally make more progress in getting myself into the right position and balance while cantering? Like I've been so busy with my legs that I've been unconsciously blocking myself all along? 

isabel is exhausted at the mere suggestion that she carry her own self
Idk really - and honestly maybe this post doesn't make any sense haha. But generally speaking: I want more from Isabel in our rides, and a part of that is letting Isabel actually canter for herself while I sit chilly. The complementary part will be ensuring that I'm riding clearly and correctly from seat and core - which should incidentally help everything else too, right? 

Lol I guess we'll find out one way or another... Have you ever ridden another horse that made clear a concept that was difficult with your own horse?

Monday, July 27, 2015

aloha horse trials! (and some unwelcome rain)

I spent yesterday morning and afternoon at Full Moon Farm's Aloha Horse Trials. Guys. This was maybe the COOLEST event I've ever attended - it was Hawaiian themed and competitors were very strongly encouraged to dress the part. There were even leis in the registration packets!! 

this pair's dressage outfit was amazing. and their jumping outfit included an even bigger floppier hat and hula grass leggings for the horse. incredible. i will never be this cool haha
I should have taken pictures of the jumps too bc they were off the wall and covered in decorations. Think: beach towels and inner tubes and surf boards and pool noodles. EVERYWHERE. 

see the lei threaded through Wick's brow band?
The divisions were pretty legit too - with a tight and winding stadium course and level appropriate questions. Meaning plenty of full-height obstacles for each division (plus there were 3 sub-BN levels). Definitely a solid venue for pairs looking for more mileage!

Wick looks ready to party, and obvi B came prepared with a Hawaiian shirt too haha
(also, for those curious - things ultimately worked out with Wick's lease situation and all parties are now quite happy and satisfied. phew what a relief!)
Part of me was bummed about not bringing Isabel too... but seeing as neither of us had done anything for a week and I was battling the aftermath of 4 nights on Bourbon St... well, it seemed prudent to just serve as groom for the day lol.

trainer P makes novice look very easy
It was a popular event tho - meaning I had the pleasure of watching both trainer P from OF ride her novice horse, and Dan run through with a couple of his own. We're definitely spoiled in this area with how may pros can be found at any old event schooling their horses. 

that is one wet pony! :(
Naturally I then felt all inspired to get back into the saddle for Isabel's first ride in a week. I figured we wouldn't do anything too crazy - just push all the buttons to make sure they still work, and get her back into a working frame of mind.

But sadly it was not to be as there was just one dark ominous cloud in the otherwise blue clear sky. And it was directly over our farm. Le sigh. The forecast wasn't calling for rain so I hoped it would pass. Once it lightened up off we went... only for it to start absolutely DUMPING on us about 15 min in. 

everything was dripping...
I was pretty disappointed, esp since Isabel was working well and we hadn't even cantered yet (and believe it or not I'm starting to think we might be making progress on our canter transitions so I REALLY wanted to try them out...). But as the rain got heavier, Isabel became more and more over bent, trying to keep her precious little face out of the rain. So oh well, we just called it a day and will hope for better luck tonight... Boo rain, BOO :(

Sunday, July 26, 2015

the horses (and mules!) of Nola

Just got home last night from a few days spent in New Orleans' French Quarter for a conference. Fun times! I'm pretty exhausted, but rather than catch up on sleep like a normal person I'm off to a horse trial today with B and Wick (I'm just playing chauffeur, not competing). 

So more interesting updates will come later (and I'll hopefully get caught up with everyone else's posts too!!!), but in the meantime here are all the horse-related pics I snapped in the Big Easy. Enjoy!

Jackson Square contains probably the most recognizable horse statue in the city. This iconic combo of statue + backdrop shows up all over the place on signs and t-shirts etc
this guy was a little less fanciful - but still pretty cool. and of course the Mississippi lies just beyond.
horses and beignets - what a perfect combo!
there's a lot of civil war history in the area too - and these neat statuettes were displayed in an antique gun shop
but of course there were actual living breathing equines too - mostly of the carriage-pulling mule variety. this particular guy was spotted making his was across bourbon street, and didn't exactly look thrilled about it. his driver said he's pretty new to the job
this true white mule was really striking and i was super disappointed that my snapshots didn't come out any clearer. as it was, i nearly knocked a few ppl off the balcony running to catch this picture haha (no, i'm NOT crazy, why are you asking?!?). 
these horse head posts lined many of the streets in the French Quarter. most were pretty plain but this one appears to have been painted (at some point) and was covered in glitter
and of course i thought Izzy would approve since he appears to be noshing on a candy cane lol
the French Quarter was kind of all over the place, with high end art and antique galleries interspersed with chintzy t-shirt and souvenir shops  
and, um, yea there were police horses tied near the station on bourbon street each evening. obviously i had to say hi (and yes all my fellow conference attendees thought I was freaking nuts...). this horse was super friendly - nearly aggressively friendly and almost bit my face off, but in a nice kind of way? lol i guess i'm just 'that girl' that probably drives all the mounted police crazy haha
then of course there are all the carriages on Decatur. they had some really interestingly colored mules out here - and i wish the pictures were better!!
these guys were all super quiet - except for one wearing a metal grill over his muzzle. presumably that one bites?
i could NOT get over how huge their ears were. for the most part these were BIG mules, with even bigger ears!
just look at those things!?! who could resist haha

and here was the white mule again. i kinda want to think this was the same one from the prior evening bc it seems unlikely that there would be more than one pure white mule around town... but who knows!
Anyway it was a super fun trip but I am GLAD to be home. Will hopefully get back into the swing of things with at least a quick ride this afternoon :)