Friday, January 29, 2016

if it weren't for that pesky rider....

The recent snow storm interrupted our lesson plans yet again - marking the second weekend in a row that Isabel had to miss out on everything. But. Liberating the trailer meant that we could take advantage of the surprisingly clear roads to get over to TM for a make-up ride!

Per usual, I have all kinds of nitty gritty takeaways from the ride, and quite a bit of footage that I'm documenting for referential purposes. It's split into two videos... but still, it's a lot and I don't necessarily expect anyone to actually watch any of it - but there's instruction in there that I need to remember and continue digesting so... it's posted haha.

trailer mate Birdie jussssssst barely fits in my Calico, thus the hat haha
also, thanks to Jen's 1,000 Post Contest prize, we now have a full set of white brushing boots. makes us a legit dressage team now, right? lol
TL;DR Version: Isabel was predictably a total star and got to work right away, despite having only been ridden once in the past two weeks - our ridiculous porpoise-like romp through the snow.

We rode most first level movements, except 10m circles and canter lengthenings. And we tackled the sitting trot in a big way, especially given Carly's observation that, um, Prelim A (which we're riding at a schooling show in February) must be ridden in sitting trot. Gulp.

I have a LOT of work to do in my position and balance in the saddle - particularly as it relates to being even from side to side. But it remains clear that Isabel is totally game despite my shortcomings, and that these movements are well within her ability.

It's not always very pretty or balanced right now as I sort myself out - but again and again Isabel demonstrates that she can make it happen when I do my job (and often even when I don't haha).

pictured: not the very prettiest trot lengthening ever, but it's definitely in there

For the feature length version, read on :)

Part 1: Warm Up & Trot Work
  • Ride the outside shoulder - making the outside of Isabel's body longer than the inside. Turn from outside shoulder, pushing her away from inside leg to bow body out and away. Keep inside rein open, with a 'wiggle wiggle' action on outside rein. 
  • My elbows must be mobile - create an 'open' feel not 'backwards' feel. 
  • Stretchy trot (1:45) - soften and round her back to help her loosen up, esp after not working for a while. Tap inside leg to ask her back to lift. Don't slip reins, instead have more mobile arms (a theme).

loosen that back, mare!
  • Post evenly from both hips; a deliberate up-down post, not just shuffling forward and back (2:50). My right hip has more of a 'kick' and comes back further than my left. Needs work.
  • Think of pointing torso towards inside of circle (3:45) and bringing my inside shoulder back.
  • When Isabel does drop her head down, give more rein so she can open her throat latch and not curl under.
  • Leg yields from quarter line to rail to warm up (around 5:00; 5:45; 6:10) - post straight ahead, don't get crooked and uneven. Keep equal weight in both sides. Immediately upon reaching the wall, close outside thigh to turn into 15m circle. 

Part 2: Sitting Trot & Canter / Counter Canter
  • Remember to think about softness to the inside rein. Use my post to get more trot - but not big long and flat trot, I want more 'up and down' trot (0:50) and to feel the moment of 'pause in the air' in Isabel's shoulders.
  • Sitting trot (snort) - instruction for it from 2:15-4:00. I need to think about pushing down into my big toes in the stirrups every stride; making little 'J's with my seat bones. I also need to remember to keep my chin up and lengthen the front of my body. Trainer C says I have to 'move more to move less.'

sitting trot needs a lot of work, but there are good moments in there
  • My seat bones should make the same "J" movement at canter as they do in sitting trot. "Control the size of the J" to control the size of the canter.
  • Counter canter loop M-X-F at 5:00; K-X-H at 5:20. Keep it small through first portion to better balance through second half of loop, the harder half when Isabel is more likely to break.
  • Canter-trot transition at X at 5:40 - I'm mostly happy with our balance through these transitions so far.

feeling good about the balance of our canter, for the most part (also, plz to shorten reins emma!)
  • Our first trot lengthening is at 6:05 - and it was kinda a mess, but oh well. We're out of shape... She wanted us to really go for it, tho I need to not throw my reins away and keep us better balanced. 
  • More sitting trot at 6:50 - I need to think of pointing pelvis towards ceiling and sitting back more. And bring hands closer together.
  • Left lead canter transition at 7:45 (these transitions are actually pretty good from the sitting trot), then loops H-X-K and F-X-M, then canter-trot transition at X.

first lengthening was a little wild and wooly haha
  • My reins must be shorter. C says to err on the side of too short rather than too long.
  • Don't think of 'hold' when sitting the trot, think 'send' instead.
  • Second trot lengthening 8:55, not quite as big as first but more balanced (except, damn I can not sit that, nope, no how no way). This lengthening is plenty for a test.

second lengthening was better, tho more conservative
  • Leg yields from center line to rail in sitting trot 9:30 - this was kinda another shit show...
  • I need to do a better job turning onto the center line FIRST through the shoulders before beginning leg yield, otherwise we kinda end up just riding a diagonal. 
  • I also need to use more outside aids and less inside rein. Make sure my elbows don't lock either, and that I don't throw my outside rein away. I must ride Isabel straight over her outside shoulder.

Phew.... ok I think that's more than enough information overload for now haha. Virtual cookies if you made it this far ;)

But damn, I am LOVING riding with C more frequently - this lesson marked our fourth in January alone, and hopefully we'll stick with the weekly schedule through the winter.

It just kinda blows my mind watching Isabel in the videos - she looks so steady and willing in her work, even when I'm bouncing around doing god-knows-what in the saddle, or concentrating super hard on anything *but* what she's doing.

Actually, for a comparison - check out the video of us riding a BN test in this post, where we're all aboard the curled-under hot mess express. The biggest difference between then and now is really in just how *rideable* Isabel feels - esp her balance both laterally and longitudinally. We still need a lot of work, but just watching that video and remembering how shitty I felt about that ride makes me feel really good about where we are now.

Now we just need the weather to hold for the schooling show plans lol. Not to tempt fate or anything... ;)

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Otherwise known as running around through deep snow like absolute children, and loving every minute :D

foes in turnout, but friends under saddle?
First off, our BM managed to clean up the barn's driveway a bit more after the storm (definitely needed since even my 4wd truck had gotten stuck a couple times on the way in the day before...) and all the kids came out to help out since schools are closed. And by this point, more paths had been cleared and the manure pit was finally accessible again.

So after only a few very short days, our barn actually looks more or less like a normally operating facility, rather than the scene of recent disaster. (Just don't try to find the arenas - they're buried. Oh, and watch out for the parking lot too.... in time, folks, in time)

giggling like a child
Only a few tasks were really left by this point (like digging out the trailers...) so who could resist taking a break on a balmy ~40* sunny day to ride around in the snow?!?

isabel says knee deep snow is nbd
Never mind that Isabel hadn't been ridden in about two weeks (first bc of her bruised sole, then bc of the storm...). And the fact that there really isn't anywhere to actually ride except for the field, where horse eating monsters are known to live. We just led the horses up alongside the fenceline and climbed aboard that way (bc let's be honest here, even if my leg weren't recently broke, getting on from the ground is not my specialty lol).

pictured: isabel's preferred method for clearing the snow 
And omg guys - SO FUN!! I've only ever ridden around in snow like this mayyyyybe once before in my life. It's just pure sheer joy :D

Isabel was predictably a little, erm, expressive about getting around in the snow, and it didn't take much for her canter stride to morph into a series of small bucks... But nothing malicious - just playing, really.

run mare RUN!!
I think she enjoyed herself tho ;)  Actually - I had heard tell of her tearing around the pasture like a maniac upon first being turned out after the storm too. Apparently there's video, tho I have yet to get my hands on it.... maybe soon?

i love the tail flick
Obviously we weren't really shooting for any real work out there... Even just walking through the snow before climbing up was exhausting for us, so surely it was tiring for the horses too... Mostly I just wanted to play around a little bit and catch some fun photos and videos. Mission accomplished? I think so lol.

My favorite part about this little clip above is that while I'm absolutely getting tossed around in the tack after losing a stirrup and actually coming close to eating shit in a couple places... what you can't tell from the gif is that the videographer and I are both laughing hysterically the whole time. Like, c'mon, look at her go!?! Lol sassy mare!

she thinks she's vurry impressive
I guess we gotta just cut loose and have a little fun sometimes. Especially given that all our implausible winter plans are already unraveling - starting with the cancellation of this upcoming weekend's clinic... Le sigh. I guess we kinda knew it was coming tho, right?

look at that hock action! ha
And it's fairly official that riding at our farm on weekday evenings is absolutely out of the question now, probably through the end of the season (unless we're REALLY lucky with the weather...).

tired horse is tired 
Some readers might recall that last year we shipped out to FV once or twice a week to school, in addition to our weekly lesson at OF. I'm not sure yet what the plan is for this year. Weekly lessons at OF are still on the docket, as are weekly rides with dressage trainer C too, hopefully.

But what about weekday evenings? Will we try a repeat of last year's plan? Idk yet. It's soooo exhausting to have to haul out every time we wanna ride... but then again are the lessons even worth it when we can't school and practice? And is it fair to the horse if she can't be kept in enough work to even maintain a baseline fitness? Idk. Gotta figure it all out, I guess.

gettin by with a little help from my friends
In the meantime tho, priority numero uno was liberating the trailer (and my car, which had been parked directly in front of it with the idea that if you dig one out, the other is more or less free too). And very fortunately, the BM took pity on me and moved most of the snow with the tractor, while our lesson program director R helped dig out the rest.

nothing quite like the sight of a dug-out trailer!
So. Have trailer, will travel, right?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

snow scenes

Perhaps you've already seen photos of the East Coast's recent snow storm plastered across all your various social media platforms. And perhaps you're kinda sick of it - like, 'ok how many pictures of snow can I look at before they all look the same?!?'

But... Well. Oh well, here are some more. Because our entire world is snow right now so it's kinda dominating our landscape. Naturally lol.

First things first tho - all critters two- and four-legged and all vehicles and all homes made it through the storm more or less unscathed. In fact, it's entirely possible that I'm the only one of my little menagerie that cares.... Isabel is clearly indifferent, so long as there's hay haha.
Work let out early on Friday in anticipation of the storm, so I hightailed it over to the barn to make sure all my ducks were in a row - including making sure Isabel had enough supplements to get her though a few days, and zipping all the plexi panels back onto my trailer.
You may recall I took the rear panels off the trailer this past spring to improve ventilation in warmer temperatures. We've also discovered over the course of the season that the zip ties used to hold the panels on have about a 6-12 month lifespan, despite being advertised as 'exterior' zip ties. I guess they just get old and brittle after so much exposure to the elements?
Since some had started breaking over the past few months, I opted to replace the zips on every panel, also as a means to make sure every little nook and cranny was as sealed up as possible before the storm. Coincidentally - this also marked the first of what would be many moments of gratitude that my leg is officially deemed healed now... Balancing on that little step stool was definitely *not* a thing I would have been able to do comfortably a couple weeks ago...
Anyway I also pulled a tarp over the trailer door where there's a significant amount of open space. The idea was to prevent snow drifts inside... but I'm really not super optimistic that there wasn't any accumulation... We will see eventually I guess, bc for now the trailer isn't super accessible haha. 
I actually left my normal daily driver car parked right up in front of the trailer, with the idea that once the car is dug out, the trailer will be automatically dug out as well. But damn, that is a LOT of snow... I have *no clue* how I'm ever going to get to the trailer any time soon, unless the BM takes pity on me and helps dig it out with the tractor.... Fingers crossed bc that clinic we signed up for this coming weekend is looking ........ a lot less likely now. Wah. 
Really tho, the 36-hour storm has mostly proven to be a bit of a vacation. Just sitting at home with the kitties staying warm and catching up on various youtube videos haha. While occasionally peeking out the window to see what world of shoveling pain I'd soon be in...
Because even trying to stay ahead of the storm by periodically clearing out the snow from around my truck proved futile. Every couple hours I'd come down and clear the same freaking section and it'd be completely indistinguishable from the rest by the next time I came down... annoying. 
At least I wasn't alone tho. Pretty much all the neighbors were out and about on Sunday after the storm cleared to dig out. But jesus, just LOOK at all that snow! Sure, it might not seem like an awful lot to those of you who live further north or in areas of greater snowfall... but this is a LOT for humble little Baltimore, with our limited snow removal resources and experience...
Finally, tho, the truck was dug out and I was free to move about the cabin, so to speak. 
And actually I was pretty impressed with how the city handled the snow, as evidenced by these perfectly cleared sidewalks I had the pleasure of using on my little 1.5mile jaunt to the next neighborhood over, bc everything closer to me was closed but a girl's gotta watch her football, right? #priorities
Because let's be honest - there are only so many hours you can spend with your cats before you start to wonder if they'd consider eating you if they were only a little bigger... OG looks for all the world here like he would try a nibble lol...
Most of the main roads are already in pretty good shape too. Sure, there's snow errywhere and the lane dividers are more like a suggestion rather than the rule... But actually getting out to the barn (which itself is on a somewhat main road) was pretty easy. 

It's just crazy tho - there is SO MUCH snow everywhere - just look at these massive piles in font of the houses!!!

The barn fared well through the storm too - never lost power and all the horses are happy and comfortable. Another boarder even came out with their snow blower to clear paths to the fields! 
Not bad, right?!? Tho our school horse herd was slightly inaccessible for a couple days, tho thankfully the horses had plenty of hay and water and didn't seem to mind the seclusion...
I like to think Izzy was happy to see me tho ;)
She came right up to say hi (even tho i didn't even have any treats for her!) and hung out quietly while I picked out the gnarly knots that had already appeared in her mane... poor thing gets left alone for two days and already looks like an orphan... lol.
"seriously tho, emma, where are the treats?" - isabel
Even the cats are doing just fine haha. Really tho there is a TON of work to be done in clearing paths and keeping the barn clean and what not (especially since our manure pit is currently inaccessible ugh). So I really only just visited with Isabel briefly before getting to work on all those stalls.... Maybe I'll be able to hop on for a little ride tomorrow tho? We shall see!

Did you get hit by the storm? How did you make out? Does your barn have any neat tricks for snow management and removal? 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

pony takeover!

On the expectation that this weekend is royally sucking for anyone in the Mid-Atlantic region who didn't plan on being house-bound this weekend, here are some Shetlands. Tiny fuzzy pony muzzles can fix almost any bad mood, right? 

They certainly fixed mine - I snapped these pics at OF when I went with the rest of the crew sans Isabel last weekend. At the time, she had just been discovered as lame at the walk, and while my rational brain knew it was probably an abscess, I couldn't help but be a little upset about it. 

But then I saw these friendly little critters and all was better in the world again! 

 "treeets plz"
 the nose gets me every time
Happy Sunday everyone :)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

slo-mo sno-mo(vies)

Because I have a new phone with fancy schmancy slo-mo technology. Who can resist getting all artsy? Never mind that it's just flurries falling on horses standing in inches-deep mud... lol

And I also snapped this gem from a crisp cold morning while all the geldings milled around waiting for me to feed them. Do these two look familiar?

Lastly tho, snow cats. Because obviously. Especially when winter's got ya like... ughhhh...