Saturday, February 25, 2012

We Jumped the Barrel Again :)

Okay, to back up.

Today Jessica tells me, "I've got an exercise he's really going to like today!"

So she has us warm up by trotting circles in all the corners of the ring in both directions. I threw in doing a bit of cantering down the long sides the second time around, then back to trotting for the circles and short sides.

So we started with poles on the ground in a zig-zag pattern, like so:


The idea being that you'd come in from the left and after going over the pole, do a circle so you'd come around straight at the next pole, then another circle going the other way so you'd be going straight at the next pole, and so on.

First she had us trot a few times over them. The first trot was fine, okay but just sort of...okay. So Jessica was like, "this time, I want you to get him engaged and really thinking about what we're doing because that time he was totally tuning it out."

And she's right. I mean...I was thinking, "hey, we've done this before, no big deal," and so that's pretty much how Kieran felt about it. So we went through it again and I thought, "we're going to be engaged and paying attention and do it right" and wouldn't you know he was really using his hind end and forward and it was just....lots better. Who knew? LOL

Then she had us do it again but this time she wanted us to do it cantering. So we talked about it because obviously, Kieran doesn't do flying lead changes, so we'd have to trot over the poles themselves to do a simple change and the circles would be a lot bigger than we could do with the trotting. So the idea was that I needed to plan ahead of time how this would go so we could do it.

It...wasn't pretty.

We could do the first circle okayish, but we'd get to the second pole and we'd have to go down to a trot and then I'd be thinking "okay, change the bed, push for another canter but you've got to circle too! omg!" and it would all kind of fall apart.

Didn't help that Kieran kept picking up the left lead coming into the first pole and we were supposed to do a circle to the right. One time I didn't even feel it even did the full circle and Jessica was like, "that was totally on the wrong lead". Usually I can tell, but that one just...felt really put together. Anyway, I ended up switching which side I was coming from and we did it from the top instead and once we got through three poles with no mishap, I skipped the last one, because I didn't want to mess it up so we ended that exercise on a good note. It was really difficult! It's hard because you've got to do the "plan" thing but you can't overthink it (or at least I can't) or it just...doesn't work.

Anyway, so we went back to trotting the poles, but Jessica used my jump blocks to slowly raise them. First they were just low cavaletti, basically, then she made them all half a low crossrail. Then she raised them to very low verticals (or the tall setting for a cavaletti). Then she'd make one side be the tall setting for the jump blocks and the other side be the medium setting but only the ones in the middle. Then she made them all the tall setting, basically 2ft verticals (and added ground poles under them). Theoretically, he could still trot over them but at that point he was more likely to jump them. Here she said if he wanted to canter in or out, I could let him, just...mostly trot.

As they got higher she also said I was really going to have to work at being serious about it (like we talked about with the first exercise) and giving him a boot to push him forward and be like, "yo, they're getting bigger, you've got to give me more effort, dude).

One time she quickly stuck her coat over one to make it more "interesting" and he was like, "oh....she wants me to jump, okay!". LOL So that one got some more effort. That was one about three strides out he started cantering (not rushing, just...cantering) and gave a pretty good jump for.

Anyway, finally we ended up sticking a barrel under one of them (remember we already jumped this last week, just in a different setup) and it was the one we were coming to at the end. (so we came in the top zig zag and jumped the barrel last at the one on the bottom).

Again, about three strides out he cantered but the jump was an "oh, shit!" jump. It wasn't pretty. It threw me out of the tack. If I hadn't thought to grab mane right before I might've actually totally lost it or at least really hung off his mouth and not meant to. But still...he went over. He didn't refuse, he didn't even think about it.

Jessica said the problem was that he made a mistake. He thought he could do that canter thing, but he was really like...two and a half strides away so suddenly he was right on top of it and hence he just had to wing it.

Anyway, she gave me the option of ending there because...hey, he did what we asked, even though it wasn't pretty, he didn't even touch the jump despite the awkwardness. Or she said, we could do it again. Not the whole thing, just the last bit with the barrel.

I really had to think about it. On the one hand, it wasn't a bad spot to end on, again...he did exactly what I asked him to do. On the other, he's got a history of the first time we do something newish tends to be awkward and then the second time through he's figured it out and it tends to be better. So it really came down to me thinking I might mess it up and then if we did it "wrong" that would be a bad note to leave it at.

Well, I just decided we wouldn't do it wrong. That I'd be with him and we'd go again. Heck, I even asked him, "are you ready?" and I could feel him kind of push forward a bit like he does when he's excited about something. Might be in my head but I took that as a yes. So we trotted another circle like we were coming out of hopping over the previous pole and I thought, "look ahead, keep your leg on, stay with him!" and we cantered the last few strides up to it and he jumped over the dang thing like he was at a show and about to win a blue ribbon. No lie, I almost cried afterward because it was pretty much perfect.

Jessica said he looked good, knees tucked up to his chin, and I looked good right there with him and if we jumped like that every time, we'd be winning in shows, no question.

I only wish there was a picture, but hey, I know how it felt. Jessica also said he might be ready then, considering today, to start cantering jumps more instead of trotting them and that we'll likely find it easier.

I'm pretty excited. :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I haz a shiny!

So when I went to the MD Horse Expo last month, I ordered a bracelet to be made from some of Kieran's tail hair by Tara's Equine Designs. It took me a bit to get around to sending the hair and then it took a couple weeks to be made and sent back to me so I just got it in the mail today. I think it's pretty shiny. :) I didn't get anything really "extra" done with it, it's just a five-strand flat braid, but I like that it's simple.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Making things Interesting

Kieran's getting bored with little, cavaletti-style jumps. But we're not really ready for anything much bigger (I know I'm not, at least in terms of my position and my riding). So today we tried to make things more interesting. Jessica ended up dragging over some lattice things that someone had once used for jumps for one of them because it looked "scary" compared to regular poles...then she hung her jacket over one of the other ones...then finally she had us jump over one of the barrels on its side.

But before that...warmup!

Part of our warmup after walking and trotting is to do some short "handgallops" I've mentioned before, I think.

Then, we did some trotting spirals, both directions.

Then, Jessica had us canter, then make a circle cantering and as we came out of it, to come to a halt. And she wanted it to be a nice halt, not a "fall forward on your face halt". So the idea being that I had to think ahead about what I wanted and prepare him properly so we could actually do it.

Then, since we've only been hopping over single fences, she had set up three in the center of the ring. First time, she had us trot over the middle one, down to the fence, then turn right and come back for the fence on the left (it was slightly catty corner so coming out of the corner meant we were on a straight line for it).

So Jessica progressively made the jumps more interesting (but not too much higher) with what we had on hand because Kieran was not really impressed with them, mostly. So we ended by going over the center one (now a vertical across the "tall" setting for the blocks), then came back around to do the lattice jump, then around for the barrel on the far side. :)

Looking at the videos, I know I need to have quieter hands and really work more again on using my legs. My toes are sticking waaaaaaay out and I suspect my stirrups are too long since in a lot of places when I'm getting out of the saddle, my leg is almost totally straight. (I need to punch holes, those stirrups are as short as they can go without me wrapping them around the irons)

Anyway, what do you think?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Like" Gentle Giants!

I'll have stuff to talk about regarding Mr. Kieran soon too, I'm sure. I have another saddle to try out on him after all, anyway, but it isn't here yet.

But in the mean time!

SHOW US THE LOVE! This February launches our first annual Valentine's Day Challenge! Show us your "love" by sharing Gentle Giants with some friends, and help us get to 5,000 "LIKES" by February 14th! One random "LIKE" will be chosen and will be awarded a great prize! AND... the friend who referred that person gets a great prize, too! So tell everyone you know who might "LOVE" us! The more you share, the better your chances of winning! More details to follow.....

Click here to check out the Gentle Giants facebook page and go "like" them!