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.