Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Three Rides....One day!

So this morning, I had my private lesson with Kristy at CHC. She put me on Kinko and I told her I wanted to work on my two-point (or half seat or jumping position or what the heck ever you want to call it). It's always kinda been hit or miss with me. I never really got very far in learning to jump as a kid and then I stopped riding for about ten years.

Then, I started taking lessons this year in February. I was in one class for a while before I switched into Kristy's class. That other class had only just really started going over two-point when I got into Kristy's where they'd already been doing it for a while. So I never really got the basics down, I guess, though I know what I was supposed to look like and, according to Kristy, have sort of been forcing myself into that position ever since. "Muscling" it. And basically, not doing it properly.

So last night, when I was in my lesson and we were working on jumping and I wasn't getting it, it became pretty obvious I needed to work on that. Some days it's fine, but a lot? Not so much.

First, today, she had me just stand up (not straight but...I guess like if I went up to post and just never sat back down) while trotting. Which I couldn't get. At all. My legs were too straight and I couldn't find the right place to balance and just...stand. About then we figured my stirrups were likely a little too long to allow me to clear the saddle and still keep my knees bent, so we shortened them a bit. Back to the exercise, first just at the halt so I could find the right balance point. Then walking, so I could do it while the horse was moving. Only once I got that did I go back to trying it at the trot. Wasn't perfect, but it was better and after I seemed to be getting it, we went back to two point.

There, Kristy had me do it at a halt again so she could correct my position. She was telling me to put my hips back and I was, apparently, trying to push my knees back. Which, obviously, doesn't quite work. She also decided I could stand to bring my stirrups up a hole more.

Once I found the right position again and could feel it (knee relaxes, heel drops, and I remember to look up and keep my chest open, etc), she had me do it again at the walk. Once that was done, she had me do it trotting. Then over trot poles. Then over a crossrail.

Luckily, Kinko's a really good guy who, once I got him trotting, would just sort of keep motoring around till I asked him to do something different so I could really focus on what I was doing with me and less on what he was doing. (Okay, it wasn't luck, that was intentional on Kristy's part).

So anyway, I spent most of the 45 minute lesson either standing in the stirrups or in two-point. By the end of it, when she was telling me "just one more time!" all I could think was "I don't think I can make it one more"....but I did! And anyway, the lesson definitely helped. I just have to keep it up.

Kristy suggested I talk to the manager about working in some practice rides on my own. I still feel kinda weird thinking about riding there without an instructor. I could of course, make sure to work on this stuff at Gentle Giants though some of the horses there are less inclined to just motor around for me than the school horses at CHC ;). And there was an exercise she told me about a while back to work on it too (though obviously, it works better on a horse) is to stand on the edge of a step or something, drop my heels (so I'm balanced on the balls of my feet) and make like I'm going into two point. I can do that too.

So that was the first ride.

After that, I drove up to Gentle Giants. Nobody was there yet, so I killed time by cleaning stalls and taking pictures of horses out in the fields. When Christina (one of the instructors) got there was when it was time to ride. Christina's riding a horse for somebody else there right now (he's still kind of green, I think. Or just skittish. Or both.) and wanted somebody else there while she rode in the arena (he does better if he's not alone). And I, of course, wanted to ride. :)

I had figured on just riding Carley, but as I thought about it I considered riding Treadway again. Bareback, as I figured it would be easier to keep my leg off him and if he got too fast? I could more easily bail. Hah.

So that's what I did and this ride was sooooo much better than the other one. He actually walked almost sedately around the ring for me. And of course, when he trotted, he had a tendancy to get fast (mostly on the long sides of the arena) so instead of hauling on his face, I would circle him, or do zig zag serpentine=y things. He'd slow down, and we'd go straight again.

I think a big part that helped on my end was that I was more relaxed and couldn't brace with my legs on the nonexistent stirrups. :) I also didn't just keep a tight rein on him, but just had light contact on his mouth most of the time and kept reminding myself to actually do the "squeeze release" thing.

I will say he steers off of my seat very well (I barely used rein to ask him to turn) and his trot is wonderfully smooth, even when he's going fast, I never really felt like I was bouncing all over his back.

So yay. :) Now I get why people there say he's a fun ride.

The third ride was Carley, but not for very long as both Christina and I were pretty tired by that time (she'd gone riding this morning too elsewhere). Not much to say on that one, neither Carley or Big Red (who Christina was riding) were overly inclined to do anything that resembled work and neither of them wanted to pass the other. Hah. Still, not a bad ride.

Of course, I did fall off at the beginning of it.

I rode Carley bareback too, but unlike the other day when she stood pretty damn still for me to mount (from a block), today when she felt my hands tense on her back in order to get on, she would try to sidestep. Once, I got partway on (from just a little too far away), she started walking, and I tried to get the rest of the way up. I basically ended up losing it and coming off the other side *facepalm*. Christina said she'd thought I was going to make it up just before I came off. I hit my hip (and a fall from 17hands or so isn't overly fun) but not badly or anything. So I tried again and got on and all was well. I told Christina that was technically my first fall since I'd started riding again (the one where I came off Cameo the other week and landed on my feet totally doesn't count). She was surprised, saying that would be like her first fall this week. But then, she rides a lot of OTTBs (and, in fact, owns one and he's apparently...exciting. Yes. :) ). Whereas I've mostly stuck to school horses and pretty laid back drafts so far. ;)

Anyway, all's well that ends well and I learned a lot.

Oh, and the picture up top was taken at GG today. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hee, bareback

Following on my fabulous ride of the other night, I had a very good ride on Carley today, up at Gentle Giants. She hasn't been ridden in about a week and a half or so since she got kicked by another horse (right in the hoo-ha) so I wasn't sure if she was going to be wiggy or not. That said, I still had it in my mind that today I was going to forego the saddle and opted for bareback.

I haven't ridden a horse bareback since I was about fourteen. Ten years ago. Eesh.

That said, despite her 17-hand-something Belgian height? Carley's a wonderful horse for bareback. She's generally pretty laid back. And she's built like a laz-y-boy couch. I could've set a table for four on her ass. She was also nice and warm and fuzzy (winter coat has grown in).

The last time I rode her, she hadn't been inclined toward anything that resembled work (I was riding her that day without stirrups, actually, but with saddle, and it was a bitch). I thiiiink I've posted about that already. Of course, that time, there was no other horse in there with her.

Today? There were three other horses. So she was pretty good about going (I actually gave away my crop at one point because she was being pretty forward. A few minutes later she figured out I didn't have the crop and started getting lazy again so I eventually had to get a crop again because she wasn't listening to my leg.). We walked and trotted. She has a nice trot to sit to, but I did try to post a tiny bit. Which is a heckuva lot more difficult bareback than just sitting, so mostly I sat. We also walked over some ground poles, just to make things more interesting for her (I know I've mentioned before that Carley's not fond of the ring, she'd much rather be out on the trail).

I even managed to stay on when she shied.

That is, another horse (Gypsy, who was on her last ride at GG today as she's going to her new adopted home tomorrow) apparently decided the closed door at one end of the arena was OMGSCARYANDGOINGTOEATHER or something. So she spooked. All the way at the other end of the ring. Still, Carley apparently has a sympathetic link to Gypsy or something so she jumped to the side too. I didn't even slip.

I mentioned she's easy to sit on, right?

I told somebody I can add that to my list of "things I can sit". Along with "bucking school horse" I can now have "shying draft horse. bareback."


All in all, a good day today.

Another lesson tomorrow at Columbia (and not on Cameo, thank goodness. I have Simone. Who, now that I think about it, I've already mentioned. Hah! Forgot I checked that on Friday.). And Tuesday in the morning? Private lesson, hee. Not sure who I'll be riding then. Will have to ask tomorrow. And after that, I'm planning on going back up to GG and will likely ride Carley once more bareback. Hopefully, she'll still be in a good mood. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tonight was fabulous

Had a working student lesson tonight at Columbia Horse Center. They had me on Shroeder, one of the intermediate horses. I'd ridden him a couple of times back during the summer and liked him, though I didn't fall immediately in love with him the way I've done a couple of other horses there that I've ridden.

Tonight, one of the first exercises Carolyn had us do was ride with "handlebars". That is, the saddlepads we were using have these velcro/nylon straps that usually fasten around the billet straps for the girth and help keep the saddle in place. She had us un-velcro them and pull them out and hold onto them along with the reins while we rode, the idea being that it would help us keep our hands still.

It was an interesting exercise, but it made steering awkward. I'm not sure if I didn't have the reins at the right length or that was just Shroeder, though. Most likely it was mostly me. ;)

We did that walking and at a posting trot several times around the ring before she had us try cantering with them. Once we'd tried it cantering, she let us go back to riding normally and we did some more cantering around the ring, both ways. Shroeder was pretty easy to get to canter, though the transition I'm fairly certain wasn't very pretty. Mostly I think that was because he wanted to do this poky trot that wasn't likely to make it easy for him to transition up. Once I got him up there, he wasn't inclined to just motor along either, he'dve dropped (and tried) back into a trot given the opportunity but I just squeezed with my legs or gave him a cluck when I felt him about to slow and he kept right on going.

It was kind of weird because Shroeder kept drifting to the inside of the ring like Cameo, though he managed not to be as annoying about it. Partly because he seemed to really just want to go on the "inside track" of the ring (I guess so he could cut corners and not have as far to go) as opposed to go to the middle of the ring and stop like Cameo kept trying. And it didn't take much more than a twitch of the outside rein and me nudging him with my inside leg a few times to convince him to go back over to the wall, so I didn't really mind.

After cantering, we worked in some jumping which...Carolyn started us just going over trotting poles posting first and making sure our horses stayed straight going through them. After that, she had us do two point over the trotting poles. Then she made a really low crossrail (preceded by trotting poles) and had us post up to it and do two point over it, again with the idea of keeping our horses straight. Progressively, she raised the crossrails until it became something they might actually jump over instead of simply trot over and that's about when she had us choose at random whether we'd go left or right when we got to the wall after the jump. With the idea still being to keep the horse straight and also prevent them from anticipating which way they'd have to turn so they'd be listening to us instead. Shroeder performed like a champ (except still wanting several times to go through a little too slow for which Carolyn got after me to get more energy out of him).

Ended definitely on a good note and I was pretty pleased. I should've asked Carolyn how my two point had looked, though, I'm pretty sure it was kinda crappy. Or at least I felt like I was more hunchy than I could've been.

Though if I was, I imagine she would've said something, so it could be all in my head. I need to get somebody to agree to come out and tape me in a lesson or two so I can see myself. Or even just a couple of times like, posting a bit, cantering, and going over a crossrail.

Doing the working student thing tomorrow, should be fun. :) Going to also ask Kristy about working in a private lesson on Tuesday and maybe she'll let me ride Shroeder again.

Oh, and in other news, I am currently on the books to ride Simone on my Monday night lesson. Huzzah! No more Cameo! (for now) And Simone seems like a sweetheart, though I guess we'll see. I haven't ridden her yet, but I've wanted to since I first saw her.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Frustration. Level. Rising.

So I had Cameo (yet again. Kristy likes giving us one horse for several weeks before she switches us to someone new) tonight. Kristy wasn't teaching though, as she's on vacation, so we had someone else (whose name I can't remember for the life of me right now).

I didn't magically fall off on my feet this time (thank goodness).

But I did have a bitchy horse.

It's weird, because the first three or so times I've ever ridden her, she was pretty cooperative. Just last week she started with the "no, actually, I don't want to do what you want to make me do" routine. Tonight that mostly manifested in her popping her inside shoulder and doing the noodle-neck routine as she tried to move into the middle of the ring. Though I think she did get a couple of little bucks in, too, when I was trying to make her canter.

So yeah. That going to the inside of the ring thing kept happening for probably a good half of the hour or so lesson. I couldn't even cross the ring (to keep her from running up onto a slower horse in front of her) without her trying to stay in the middle of the ring and so on. And my first inclination (to pull with the outside rein and pull her back out) doesn't really work because she just noodle necks. Intellectually, I know I need to create a wall with my inside hand and leg and move her whole body over but actually putting it into practice is rather easier said than done.

So this kept happening. And I kept feeling like an idiot. And there was a new teacher (and someone else in there observing) and nobody else was having this issue. So the frustration was really there. For a minute there I was almost in tears (such a baby, I know) because she just wouldn't settle in and work (last week it didn't take nearly as long to get her going) and then there's this new person instructing and I just kept thinking she must've been wondering why I wasn't back in some beginner class or something (again, intellectually, I doubt she thought that, but who ever said I was always rational?).

Fiiiinally, she did settle in, though not after I'd worked at getting her to canter to the left several times around. But by the time we switched to going to the right, she was ready to go and that was just fine. I didn't really have any trouble with her after that (thank goodness).

I will be doing working student lessons again starting on Friday so the extra time in the saddle again will likely help. That and I'm going to try to set up an extra private lesson with Kristy on my day off next week and I'll ask her to work with that with me. Maybe I'll even ask her to put me on Cameo for that.

Though, honestly, there was a point in the lesson tonight I was tempted to write Kristy a note saying "put me on anyone but Cameo next time, please." But then I figure that's just giving in to the bossy mare and I want to learn how to ride the difficult horses (and I'm sure she isn't the worst I'll ever have to deal with) along with the easy ones. So the note will stay unwritten. :)

Substitute!instructor did say that this is a thing Cameo does a lot and if she's been in more lessons lately with kids who aren't ready yet (or strong enough or whatnot) to make her mind, then she's more likelLinky to be inclined toward thinking she can get away with it. Which might help explain why she was easier to ride for me before as compared to lately. Or it's possible it's the change in the weather (now that it's cooler) that is also at play here.

Anyway, I figure if nothing else, it's research for the novel I'm writing for National Novel Writing Month. I'll torture my main character with a horse like Cameo. ;)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Well, I can sit a bucking school horse!

Tonight's lesson was. Exciting. Yes, that's the word.

I had Cameo, who I've ridden in the last two lessons and got along with pretty well.

First, though, she copped a bit of an attitude when I was re-situating her saddle (it had shifted too far back before I got her) and then tightening the girth. Which is kinda par for the course with her, she's a tad girthy. Then she wanted to start walking before I was fully in the saddle. Also par for the course, but annoying.

Then, the class gets going and we're warming up trotting and I'm thinking my stirrups feel weird (I can't describe it better than that, really). I think the left one (which was the inside stirrup at the time) was a little too long or something. I just felt kinda discombobulated. Then, as I was going up to post, my foot managed to slip out of said stirrup and I totally lost my balance and came off the horse.

Luckily, I managed to somehow do this so that I was basically dismounting while trotting. I'm not entirely sure how it happened. Luckily, Cameo stopped. I don't think Kristy is sure what happened either because I think she only saw me suddenly standing on the ground.

Anyway, I got back up and we continued.

There were a couple of times where, getting Cameo to trot from a walk, she'd pin her ears and feel like she was thinking about bucking, but she didn't do it. Also on one end of the end of the arena we were working on, she would keep moving to the middle of the circle and we'd have an argument about moving back over. Still working on how to straighten a horse out that does that because my initial reaction isn't really the right one. That and, according to Kristy, I'm not getting after her enough and she knew she could get away with it.

So there was that but it wasn't too bad. I chalked it up to the weather turning colder overnight (as it had) and Cameo just being grumpy.

Until she bucked once on that end of the arena as I was pushing her back over and keeping her trotting. Pretty sure I let out a "shit!". First time a horse has done that to me in a while. Other than that, we kept going and it was okay.

Then we started trying to group canter (actually only half the class at a time, but still). The first time, she thought about bucking, wouldn't canter, and came into the ring (where the other half of the class was waiting). According to Kristy, I still needed to get after her and she was "getting into my head" and I needed to not let her do that.

So we went again. Again there were a few bucks before she straightened out. But I sat them! And didn't lose my cool.

The next time around when we went the other direction was much smoother as she apparently decided to more or less do as I'd asked.

Then we did a bit of work on trotting into a low crossrail and cantering out. I had no trouble getting her to canter there (in fact, Kristy had me drop my crop as she definitely wasn't in need of me carrying it). Mostly then it was keeping her from going before it was her turn and, once, we went over one of the "high" ends of the jump. And cantered a little too far into the other class on the other end of the ring. *facepalm*

Those last bits were much more me at fault than the horse, though. ;)

Anyway, it was definitely an exciting lesson. I left feeling like a big dork, though Kristy said I didn't do that badly, especially considering how Cameo was acting.

I suppose I figure I should be able to, at this point, just magically work with the horse and it works. Which is silly because I've only been riding again as an adult since February or so.

And even after I fixed my stirrups after that almost-fall incident at the beginning, they still felt kinda weird to me. It was just a weird night, I think.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two good rides

I had two good rides yesterday. It being a federal holiday and all, I had the day off (yay!). So, in the morning I went up to Gentle Giants and helped out a bit with bringing horses in and feeding and watering and all of those fun things. After a while, it ended up that there was me, and Christine (who still can't quite ride yet, due to healing broken arm), Alex (who I haven't mentioned in this blog yet, but she adopted Tressa from GG and boards her there), and two other volunteers who are au pairs. One is from Germany and the other is from Sweden. Anyway, Alex, the au pairs, and I ended up taking several of the horses into the large pasture (currently empty since we brought horses in to eat) and rode around, which was fun. I got to ride Tabby, whom I adore and was very good for me. But then again, she usually is.

It's funny because Tabby gets an attitude with other horses (especially if she's got food at the time) but she's an angel for most of the people she's with. Which is good, too. :) She's another one I'd totally adopt if I could have a horse. You also wouldn't guess she's 20. She certainly doesn't look or act it.

Later in the evening, I had a lesson up at Columbia Horse Center, where we were informed our class is now officially an adult intermediate class and no longer a beginner one. So yay! I got to ride Cameo, who I'd only ridden once or so a while back. We got along pretty well and Kristy said we looked good together and I looked pretty relaxed going over the tiny crossrail she'd set up for the class to go over so I'm guessing I'll be seeing Cameo again for future lessons.

She also mentioned that Oct 24, they'll be having a Halloween party and need people to work on the haunted trail ride. I'm tempted (I think I could do the whole ghost thing. Lots of baby powder, possibly a white wig, long white veil things, and a cheap white skirt/dress/something.). But mostly for the possibility of getting an extra lesson or two in exchange for working. ;)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Three rides to talk about. I really need to get in the habit of updating this more regularly but oh well!

The first was last Thursday, I went up to Gentle Giants and rode Carley. Well, first I brought horses in from the field, hayed and watered, then I rode Carley. We had a really good ride, which I was pleased about. Near the end, I gave her a loose rein and tried steering her with just my leg and seat. Which was sort of hit or miss but I think she got the concept, she was just more interested in going the direction she wanted to go.

I've been keeping my rides out at GG to around a half hour or so. I guess I could make them longer but I always feel like I might be taking advantage or something. That and I sort of get to be at a loss for things to do. I hate to just make them trot around and around the arena. I suppose next time I should think ahead and set up trot poles. Or visualize us doing serpentines and smaller circles and things like that to keep it interesting. And gait transitions.

Yeah, I think about all this stuff now....

Probably a big part of it is that I'm still very much a student and very much in "listen for what the instructor tells you to do" mode and feel weird having a whole arena to myself and having to make it up as I go along.

What do you do when you're just riding in the arena?

Other than that, Monday was riding lesson day at Columbia Horse Center. I had thought I was going to ride Confetti (one of the "Intermediate" horses) but a few last minute changes apparently led to me riding Valentine (one of the first horses I rode there. He's a dear old boy. And apparently used to do some pretty high level dressage which is cool.) instead. Which was a good thing because in a class of six people? Only two of the horses that night were "leaders". Valentine and one of the others. So Valentine and I ended up in front for most of the night. But at least he's quite willing to be there and I didn't have to push him about it. Didn't even need to be carrying my crop, really.

My favorite part was near the end when we had to pull our stirrups up over the saddle and work on a sitting trot with no stirrups. Kristy mentioned that Valentine was likely the bounciest in the group but she didn't think I'd have a problem with it. And I didn't! (My sitting trot used to be horrendous, bouncing all over the place, so I'm really pleased that it's become easier for me.) I still wouldn't want to ride Mickey's trot sitting (pogo stick!) but I feel better about doing it in general.

Last night was back to Gentle Giants where I rode Treadway for the first time. He's also a nice old boy. Twenty years old, Percheron cross, former eventer. And apparently he has a hard mouth and very light sides.

We spent the entire (no more than twenty minutes) ride trotting. Except for right at the beginning when I mostly got him to walk around the arena both directions. He was determined to trot. He'd even trot verrrrry slowly so it was "like" walking but...two beat gait. I posted about it here.

Eventually it seemed to be we were both getting more frustrated with each other than anything. Me feeling like I had to really hold him in and hang off his mouth and him wanting to go. I got a good suggestions in the thread I linked to that I'll try next time we ride. Relax, take my leg off him more, shorter half halts. (It's quite possible I wasn't "squeeze-releasing" as much as I thought I was so he was just getting continual pull.) I'm also going to ask someone to really stay in there and watch, at least for a few minutes, and remind me of the stuff I should be doing. ;)

That said, I figure I'll be riding Big Red tomorrow. May depend on how early I get there. Early enough and I could ride before evening lessons and then again after. Hmmm.

Sailor seems to have an adopter. This has produced mixed feelings. I'll have to give him extra love until he goes.

That's the only problem with being at a horse rescue. The horses aren't supposed to stick around. So you grow attached and then have to say goodbye. Which I knew going in but still.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Indya likes to /move/!

First off, I went up to Gentle Giants last Thursday to help with preparations for the flea market that was on the 20th. I ended up planting mums. :) Didn't actually get around to riding, but that's okay.

The weekend, I flew home for my (and my grandfather's) birthday. Had fun. Requested my family just give me money or donate to GG so I came back with a nice lump of cash to present to Christine when I head up there later this week. Yay!

Flew back yesterday morning and ended up spending the afternoon down in Annapolis. I haven't really gone down there just to hang out in a while (with my dog!) so it was fun to do that. Took a bit of a catnap on a bench on the Naval Academy. Hee!

Last night was back to riding lessons. I rode a schoolhorse named Indya. We discovered that working up to the group canter gets her antsy (she starts anticipating). By working up I mean we all lined up at one end of the arena, the first person would start trotting, then in the corner ask for the canter and canter around, coming back to the trot at the end of line. And so on, with each of us departing with less time between until we were actually all cantering at the same time. Indya, however, would get herself worked up waiting in line until, when it was time to go, she'd go fast. It felt like we'd do four canter strides and already be down to the other end of the arena. Eesh.

I ended up having to sort of walk her around the middle of the ring on a loose rein in between turns to help keep her relaxed and not thinking about heading off to canter. We did finally get to the group canter. For a few seconds.

Then one of the other horses dropped her head, dropped her shoulder, and gave a little buck. Just enough that her rider came off, landing on her back with a pretty resounding thud. Luckily, she wasn't injured. This was the same rider on the same horse that came off last week so Kristy has pretty much decreed they won't be paired together for the forseeable future. I don't know what's up with Comet to make her do that. I hope it isn't the start of a pattern because that'd make her pretty much unable to continue being a school horse, if they can't trust her.

Anyway, we spent the last few minutes of the lesson after that working on the sitting trot and even the rider who came off got back up and worked at that.

Indya, for the record, was lovely at the sitting trot, once I got her going again. See, it was near the end of the lesson, we'd been stopped (because of the fall) for several minutes, and somewhere in there during the lesson I'd dropped my crop (accidentally, but I didn't need it anyway). She thought it was over. I had a hell of a time convincing her to pick it up again but once I did, we were fine.

Won't get to do any more riding, likely, until Thursday at the earliest, so we'll see how things go. Can't wait to find out how the flea market went. :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Last Night

Got to Gentle Giants in time to watch Christine painting a big sign (see above) to advertise the flea market there this Saturday. Also watched part of a lesson given by Instructor!Laura. And filled up water troughs and contemplated planting flowers and visited with the horses (Sailor came over to the gate to say hi) and other various things.

To ride, Instructor!Laura suggested I get Caladhin and Tabitha. Tabby, I've ridden before. Caladhin? I hadn't.

When I asked Christine if there was anything I should know about him before riding him, she said, "you'll need a lot of inside leg to keep him on the wall of the arena and when he goes to trot, he tosses his head a couple of times but it doesn't mean anything."

So I brought him in and started grooming. He was a nice boy for all that. Picked up his feet very nicely, without planting them and requiring me to tug or leaning on me after he picked them up. Which, he's huge, so he would've squished me if he'd leaned.

He was a little touchy about me tightening the girth, but not nearly as much as some of the schoolies I've ridden. Once we started riding, I mostly walked and intermittently trotted. Going on right rein around the ring, he was much easier to keep on the wall. But left rein? Not so much. And he was worse (like Carley too) on the far end. I keep wondering if there's something about that end that makes them not want to go along it or if they're just trying to get back to the end by the barn more quickly. Either way, Christine said she was surprised at how good a boy he was being for me.

Tabby was also her wonderful self. I adore that horse. She was actually the first one I rode up at GG. Of course, the whole time she was out of the pasture, her pasture buddy, Quinn, was whinnying his fool head off and acting like he'd OMG die right now because we took Tabby away from him. Tabby? Couldn't have cared less.

I actually managed to get her to canter a little in the arena which was cool because the drafties can be reluctant to do that in there. I didn't push it with her though and mostly we trotted. She seemed pretty game for anything I wanted to ask her to do, though. She's such a good girl. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Horse Updates - The past few days

So...pictures are forthcoming whenever I get around to pulling them off my camera. And hopefully Other!Laura can send me the pictures she took of me riding in the York County Fair on Saturday because, obviously, I couldn't take pictures of myself while I was riding. ;)

Friday, I went back up to Gentle Giants and rode Carley. The week before, Carley and I had an...uhm... interesting ride. She was pretty worked up (still not sure why) and the entire ride was an argument of me convincing her that it really was okay to just walk around the pasture, that she really could go in the direction away from the barn, et cetera. It finally ended when I realized she was only getting herself more and more worked up and we weren't going to get anything productive done.

Friday? She was a totally different horse. We rode indoors because it was raining. I think the sound of the rain on the metal roof kinda weirded her out (though Christine said she really just likes to find "excuses" for why she can't be ridden). But once we got moving and warmed up, she did fine. She still wants to cut on one end of the arena and that's always a bit of a "discussion" to convince her to stay on the wall. It's not quite as easy to just move her over with my leg as it is with some of the school horses I'm used to. ;) I'm not actually sure if she knows "pushing over with leg" or if she thinks any application of leg means to go faster. I'll have to ask.

After riding Carley, I helped Other!Laura get Big Red ready to show on Saturday. That meant grooming and bathing. He was a good sport about it all, though. Could you blame him? Getting brushed and rubbed and petted and things. :) By the time we got to finishing the bath and combing out his tail, he was starting to get a little fed up with it all, but that pretty much translated to simply no longer wanting to stand still.

Saturday was, as previously mentioned, the York County Fair. Getting up before the crack of dawn? Not my idea of a good time. Anyway, I met Kerri (who was driving us up and riding her horse, Chessie, in the show) and Instructor!Laura at the barn at 6ish, we loaded the horses up, and off we went!

It was a little worrisome there for a bit because we didn't get up to the fair until 8:30. Our class was supposed to start at 9:00. So we're sitting there thinking, "oh crap, they're going to tell us where to unload, we're going to have to take the horses off, slap the tack on 'em and go to the ring." Luckily (sort of), the people who were running (or sponsoring or something) the show had an emergency and they pushed the start time back to 9:30. That gave us time to get the horses off, get them groomed again, get tack put on, et cetera.

The class we were in was kind of interesting. It was my first "real" show, for one. And I'd only ridden Red twice before for the other. And the class was a mix of people doing English equitation and Western Pleasure. On draft horses. I can only imagine how we must have looked from outside the ring. :) I'm still trying to figure out how one effectively judges a class like that, but that's why I'm just the rider.

It was a w/t/c class which was also going to be interesting for me. I'd never cantered Big Red and Christine had told me he didn't know the "outside leg behind the girth" cue and I'd just have to kick him with both legs to push up into the canter. Kerri wasn't sure if Chessie would canter at all. So we figured if they didn't, we'd trot them on the inside track of the ring (which is what we were told to do by the show officials). Luckily, that wasn't a problem, as they both cantered. Yay!

I figure they saw everybody else doing it and didn't want to be left out. :)

The class was made up of nine riders and they had six ribbons to give out. So when the first three riders were dismissed without ribbons, I was just crossing my fingers hoping they didn't call me out. So about the time the first three riders were dismissed and neither Kerri nor I was among them, I was already patting Red and telling him what a good boy he was. We got a ribbon! Kerri ended up with sixth (Instructor!Laura figured it was because, while Chessie cantered, she was doing so on the wrong lead) and I got fifth. Pretty darn good for my first show on a horse who, as far as I know, was his first show too. :)

After that, we had to wait around and kill time during a bunch of carriage classes before they got to the kids' under saddle class. If anyone can explain why they separated the under saddle classes, I'd be curious to figure that one out too. Anyway, other!Laura's daughter was riding Red in that class. They didn't come away with a ribbon but we kind of figured that because it was also w/t/c and daughter was expressly forbidden from cantering. Still, it made for good experience and daughter didn't seem too disappointed. I got some good pictures, if nothing else. :D

By then, it was time to grab lunch (thoroughly disappointing crab dip from a stand on the midway. But I made up for it with a very tasty frozen custard.), load the horses up, and head home.

Back at GG, I stuck around a bit to bring Sailor in and give him some attention. He'd caught his leg in the fence a few days before and had a pretty icky scrape, so I reapplied the ointment they were using on it (which he didn't seem terribly keen on letting me do, but I managed it). He also got brushed and curried and I attempted a running braid in his mane. It looked like crap but hey, first attempt! After giving him a couple of treats, I let him go back out to the pasture and headed home.

Sunday was a day for visiting the renaissance festival. I still haven't watched the joust yet this year (waaaay too hot out there with no shade, been waiting for it to cool off).

Last night, I had a lesson. Kristy said she could definitely see an improvement from my last lesson which: yay! We did have one person fall off, though. But luckily, she wasn't hurt at all. They were coming around a turn cantering and the horse she was riding dropped her shoulder and hit the brakes and off she came. Then she hopped right back on, so no harm, no foul, I suppose.

All the horses (save one) in our class seemed to be feeling their oats last night, as it were. Kristy said it was because the weekend had been so hot and icky but last night? It was nice and cool. I definitely didn't have any trouble keeping Bloom moving and when we started cantering, Kristy had me drop my crop since I didn't need it anyway. The biggest problem I had with him was keeping him on the rail, though unlike Carley, he tends to respond to leg pushing him over. :)

So that's it, if you read this far, you can have a virtual cookie!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Big Red

So, I went up to Gentle Giants this evening. Partly to do the volunteer thing, and partly to ride Big Red. Obviously, he's the chestnut on the left in the picture above. :) See, on Saturday, Red (a Belgian gelding at GG) and Chessie (a Belgian mare whose owner adopted her from GG) are going up to the York County Fair in PA. I'm one of the people who will be riding him (a girl is riding him in the morning in the kids' under saddle class and I'll be riding him in the afternoon for the adults' class).

I've only ever ridden him one other time and that time wasn't the best ride I've ever had. Not that he was bad per se, but there was a bit of a discussion on whether he was going to actually go. We didn't have that problem so much tonight. Of course, it helped that I was holding a crop this time (which I didn't have to use really, once he got into the groove). We walked and trotted around while Laura (instructor!Laura) rode Ivy (formerly Snow Angel, pictured below) and worked with her.

I also worked some more on the same posting exercises Kristy had me doing on Tuesday. I could definitely tell a difference tonight compared to the problems I had doing it Tuesday. Of course, I did spend some time working on my "homework" and I think that helped. That or it's just easier to do on a huge draft as opposed to the much smaller horse I was riding earlier in the week. :)

I kind of wish we'd tried to canter, but I would've needed to clear that one with Laura since they were riding in there as well. He did seem game for it, though. :)

I'll have to get someone to take a picture of us all fixed up for the fair, I'll actually be in semi-almost-formal (polo shirt, no jacket) riding attire! OMG! Assuming that the tall boots I'm borrowing from Laura fit me. Otherwise I'll be in my regular paddock boots, I suppose.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm going back up there to help Laura (other!Laura, there are three Lauras there now, oy) get Red ready for the show because it's her daughter who will be riding him in the kid's class Saturday morning. I'll probably get there before they do, though, so I'm thinking I might haul Carley out of the pasture and ride her again.

Last week, we didn't have a great ride. She was really twitchy the whole time and just refused to relax. Once I realized she was just continuing to work herself up into more of a tizzy over nothing and wasn't going to relax, I ended the ride. I'm hoping she's gotten over whatever it was that she got worked up about.

Annnd, that's about it for tonight. Tired Ana is tired. :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Today's Lesson and a Picture

Had the private lesson today and I think we definitely pinpointed some of my issues.

Kristy had me do a lot of posting exercises. Two up, one down, three up, one down, etc. Definitely showed I'm not as balanced posting as I like to think I am. A big part of it simply having to do with me locking my knees. Except, I don't realize that I'm doing it until it's pointed out. So I guess I just have to keep doing exercises to help me relax and feel how it's supposed to feel so I can get the difference. I don't remember if I had this problem when I was a kid, though I bet I didn't. Now I'm thinking too hard about it.

We also worked on the transition from trot to canter. I don't really have much of a problem sitting for cantering (I find it pretty easy, actually) and Kristy actually asked me about that since the others do so I mentioned I used to ride when I was a kid. She said that explained it and she'd thought I was like the others and only started riding as an adult. Something about how if you've felt it before, it's easier to "get" the rhythm of the canter, but if you've never felt it, it takes time (like everything you learn with horses!).

With the transition, though, I'd been thinking I needed to sit for trotting several paces before asking for the canter. My sitting trot isn't as good as it could be so this could lead to me bouncing around and tensing up and generally making it difficult to ask the horse to canter. So today she had me choose a spot to ask for the canter, and then choose a spot a bit before where I'd (still while posting) shorten up the reins, make sure Bloom (the horse I was riding) was in a good working trot, that my position was good, and only when I got to the "canter point" would I sit down, bring my outside leg back and ask. This worked great the first time I did it.

The second time? I started thinking too much about it, I think, and forgetting to relax. Also, Bloom's trot is kind of deceptive. He wasn't really in a working trot, I ask him to canter, and suddenly he's actually trotting. So we go around again. Again I don't get him to canter. And one more time.... yeah.

Kristy must have noticed I looked a bit frustrated, so she called me into the middle and we talked about it and about remembering to breathe. Then she had me try it from the other direction. Lo and behold! It worked! Several times in a row! Woohoo!

And, to cap that off, she had me do it again a couple times in the first direction. Again it worked! Of course, by now, Bloom had cottoned on to what we were doing and I had to work to keep him trotting (instead of breaking into a canter) until it was time for me to say "okay, let's canter now". But I'd rather have that, I think, than a horse you have to fight to get to go anywhere. :)

Though the second type is useful too, especially for exercising your leg!

All in all, a good horsey day. Definitely learned some stuff, came away with some "homework", and I feel better now that I know some specific things to work on. I had a pretty good idea about it but it helped to step back and have some time where the instructor was just watching me so we could really work on me. I really like group lessons, as I said before, but sometimes you miss that. Especially, of course, as the class size grows larger (though ours is pretty manageable at the moment, I suppose.).

And now that you've read all that, here's a picture of a couple of the horses at Gentle Giants, that's Twister and Remington, I think.

Riding Lessons

Normally, I take a group riding lesson at Columbia Horse Center. Actually, for a while there, I was taking two lessons a week: one that I was paying for, and another working student lesson. Fun times.

Now that the renaissance festival has started and I'm working there on the weekends, I don't have time to fit the working student lesson in, so I'm back down to one lesson a week. It's kind of weird because sometimes I feel like we aren't progressing as quickly as I'd like and other times I feel like I'm glad we're working so much on the things we are because I know I need to work on them. Like making sure my legs don't go out in front of me or that I can actually stand up in the stirrups and balance while trotting or my two-point is good and things.

I think part of the former is because I am in a group lesson with other adults, most of whom are somewhat older than I am. And also because of the whole two-lessons a week there. I was getting more time in the saddle to work out some things that seem to still be bothering the others. So now I feel like I'm a little ahead of everybody (which may or may not be true, but the others also seem to think so, from what they've said to me in unsolicited comments). Which is funny, because when I first joined the class, I was a little behind them. Of course, I also used to take lessons as a kid and most of these guys didn't. So there's things that I 'get' at least as far as intellectually, even if I haven't quite figured out how to get my body to do it properly where the others may never have heard of it and have to figure out both. If that makes sense.

Sometimes I think it might be a good plan to go into private lessons for a while excep for two things:

a) I can't really afford them.
b) I feel like, with private lessons, there should be some defined goal I'm working toward. But for me, that goal is really, "become a competent rider who can ride most any sane horse." It's not about getting to the A-circuit jumpers or 4th level dressage or anything like that. I wouldn't mind doing a little showing, but I'm totally comfortable with sticking with schooling shows and the like. I'd like to work more in dressage if only because it will make me a better, quieter rider. I love the idea of looking like the horse can read my mind when we ride, you know?

And really, I'm just happy being around horses. That and riding is my physical exercise routine. I can never seem to motivate myself to get out to the gym or to go walking or whatever. But tell me I can ride if I spend a few hours cleaning stalls? I'm totally there.

So, where's the point in all this? I have no idea, it's really more of a ramble.

I guess I was leading up to that I actually do have a private lesson today. Last night was my regular group lesson, and it was a pretty good one (I rode a horse I haven't before, and we got along well, though he's so small compared to what I'm used to. Part of that is because I also volunteer at Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue though, I think.). I've pretty much got down the departure into the canter while sitting (and this is one place where it seems like most of the others in the class are a little behind) but I think a big part of this one for me is that I just feel more secure doing it sitting then going up into two point. I never really learned, originally as a kid, to go into a canter at two point, and it feels strange to do it now.

So anyway, a big part of last night was working up to the group canter, but more than that was doing trotting/posting exercises. Regular posting, of course, but also doing things like standing up for two beats and sitting for two or standing up for three and sitting for three. Which I was pretty hit or miss on. Sometimes I had the rhythm just right and it felt easy, but most of the time I found myself standing up off balance (leaning too far back so I ended up stretching my arms out so as not to catch the horse in the mouth) and then I'd lose the rhythm, have to go back to regular posting, get situated, and try again.

So I want to work more on those exercises as well as cantering. If only because, though I feel okay at the canter, I'm not sure how much control I really have (like, if I were on a not-dead-broke-schoolie, would the horse just canter along the rail?). Oh, and sitting trot which is another hit-or-miss for me. A lot of the time, lately, I relax enough, but sometimes I still find myself bouncing all over the saddle.

So, I scheduled the private as a makeup for a lesson I missed. We'll see how it goes. I'm sort of nervous about having a lesson where the instructor's watching me the entire time. I think that's the other reason I like a group lesson, I'm not the complete focus of attention.

But there's also the possibility I need that focus, if only every now and again.