Sunday, August 26, 2012

All the Poles Are Belong To Us

Man, do I have a lot of video for you!  So tonight, Jessica set up two sets of poles for us, one in two corners of the ring, kind of like so:

Basically, the idea was that we could trot a few times each direction over the top set, and change which end we trotted over so Kieran had to either go short or go long depending, but also the turn meant he couldn't just bull through them. Oh, bonus was that the top set started out with each side alternately raised. So like, the first one has the right end raised, the middle one had the left end raised, and the last one had the right end raised again. So he really had to pay attention to where he put his feet.

After he was doing that reliably, we moved down to the bottom set of poles. Here, they were all flat on the ground, but we were supposed to canter through them. We, uh...had a few issues.

Trying it from the other direction worked better and then we were able to come back around again and do it from the first direction.

That done successfully, now the poles are raised on one end similar to how we started. We trot through first so Kieran realizes they're raised and then we're supposed to canter through. It isn't pretty. (after a few repetitions of this, Jessica figures out the problem seems to be that we come into it fine but after we hit the first one something in my mind says "we're jumping!" and I start leaning forward and I kind of drop him and he just goes, "yeah, can't make that turn, I'm out!" Once I started thinking about sitting up straight through it and making a wall with my outside rein, we did much better.

Of course, you have to start all over when you change directions...

But we got it after a couple tries and then Jessica changed it from having just one side raise to basically making a series of teeny tiny crossrails. We did alright coming from the left but true to form with every other exercise tonight, it was more difficult going to the right so by the time we got this last time through, we were ready to tell Kieran what a good boy he was and call it a night, even though it wasn't perfect. (Plus! This was a lot of hard work! Both mentally and physically so we didn't want to push it too far either)

Of course, Kieran does actually like just getting to jump so as a reward for a job well done, I let him pop over this crossrail that was left set up on the other side of the ring. :)

Anyway, that's how our lesson went, the good, the bad, and the ugly, LOL. :) Even though we had some bobbles, I think it was a really good night and it was nice to go back and work on something a little different from what we'd been doing in previous lessons. I think Kieran thought so too as he was really pretty interested and forward tonight and even though everything was low, he didn't do the "I'm bored and just going to start knocking stuff over bleh" thing. I mean, yeah, we knocked stuff over, but not because it was boring! :)

Finally, there's a few screencaptures over here in this album if you want to check them out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Traaaaaaail Ride

Took a trail ride today. Actually brought my camera along, though I admit our trails aren't terribly exciting, they're still pretty with all the green? :)

Heading out the gate off the farm.

We head down this driveway, cross in front of the trailer, and head in to the woods over on the right hand side of the picture

It's a lumber tree farm, so most of the trails are pretty straight and wide and the trees tend to be in rows.

MacGyver is just adorable here

See what I mean about rows?

It really amuses me that the dark part of Kieran's mane is half the thickness of the white part.

This was on the trail heading back to the barn and I had him turned away from it so we could get a pic. Kieran is saying here, " See. The barn is THAT way."

Then he straightened up. :)
Oh yeah, and my BO who was behind us took some pictures with her iphone.

This one shows off my snazzy half chaps. ;)

Her horse is spotted, too.

Does Kieran's butt make mine look smaller?

Sunday, August 12, 2012


So tonight started out well enough. Did some walking, did some turning on the forehand, did some trotting with spiraling circles. No big deal, all stuff we've done before. The idea that Jessica wanted us to work on tonight was leg-yielding and really getting him to listen to where my leg said go so we could maneuver better. We worked on it first from a halt and getting him to step over along a pole but he was just getting frustrating either because I wasn't doing it right or he just wanted to go forward or back instead. But we did get some decent steps so then we did it at a walk. See the image of how things were set up?

The ground poles over on the left were two parallel with each other and then the one kind of diagonal as a guide. The idea was come in over one and leg yield a couple of steps over so you're going over the middle of the second one. He actually did this pretty well. Please note, btw, my diagram is totally not to scale, it just gives an idea of where everything was set up.

After that, Jessica let us choose whatever jumps we wanted to trot in over and do a few in whatever order we wanted. So like, we started I think with that 18" vertical down at the bottom, but then maybe we came around to the two low verticals next to the fence on the right. Or we'd do that vertical in the center (which was 18" up until the end of the lesson and our last exercise when Jessica raised it a bit) and then trot around to something else. Or we'd trot into the one stride and canter out. You get the idea. It made for a nice break and just letting Kieran do something he likes without asking too much out of him.

Unfortunately, two things then happened that made the lesson get more difficult. One. Jessica started asking us to do more difficult exercises (mentally, that is, and particularly for Mr. K to have to listen to me). And Two...we had someone else come in and ride at the same time. Which was okay, but it was a distraction and Kieran likes to use that as an excuse to bulge his shoulder and try to bull over toward the other horse.

Anyway, Jessica had us start trotting in and cantering the lines more  and then coming around to one of the other jumps instead of just cantering around along the fence. Well, Mr. K thought he didn't have to listen for the turning and that he could just run through everything like a doofus and completely ignore me. So we started doing canter circles because...well, typically in the past that helps bring his brain back to what he was supposed to be doing but...he just wanted to flip me off I guess. =P They weren't pretty circles at all and indeed at least once he was so focused on "I DO WHAT I WANT OKAY" that we almost ran right into the fence before he realized "hey, that rider up there might know something". It wasn't very pretty and really felt a lot like a teenagery tantrum.

Did finally get some decent canter circles and him listening again so then Jessica had us do this last exercise, emphasizing that for it to work I was going to have to really have good half halts and make sure K was with me the whole way because of the hard turn we'd have to make (and the idea being if we turned too wide, I'd have to leg yield his butt over so we'd still be straight to the last fence).

Looked like this:

The first time through wasn't pretty and I wasn't as prepared as I could be and we went too wide for that third fence and didn't make it. So we came back around again and this time we were...slightly discombobulated, but hey...we made it over? The one thing Jessica pointed out that happened really good there though was that Kieran wanted to kind of stick in a little half stride at the end and kind of hop over it with his legs all hangy (he's done it before, being lazy) but right when she saw him thinking about doing it, I pushed him over with my legs and a smack with the crop (I was just trying to encourage him to actually go over properly, I guess, hah) and he instead picked up both his feet nicely and jumped it properly.

Finally, we did it one last time and it went really well. He listened, and we didn't have to kind of motorcycle around the turn. I told Jessica we'd have done it better if I had started thinking about the turn as we were going over the second jump instead of as we landed from the second jump but I do have a bad habit of "okay, we landed, now where are we going?" instead of thinking about it as far ahead as I ought to. :|

Anyway, here are some pictures, they're all from the first part of the lesson.

That's what he does when he's pleased with himself, actually. I think this was right after he'd trotted over the 18" vertical in the center instead of jumping it. Lazy pony!

One of the new jump standards. Oh, and us cantering the long line along the fence.

Tomorrow's plan is just to go on a nice, relaxed, ride on the trails and let him decompress a bit. We've got another lesson scheduled for Tuesday and I hope we'll get it together then. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So....looks like I need a new helmet...

So, last night's lesson started out pretty normal. We started warming up a bit before Jessica got there and when she did, she unloaded and set up our brand new set of four actual proper jumps that me and another boarder went in on. She ended up setting them up to look something like this:

And then she first had us start by doing some nice trotting on a long reing around the ring which Kieran did really nicely and relaxed and still pushing with his hind end, etc. Then, to wake the horses up, she had us hand gallop one at a time around the ring each direction. Allison (the other boarder) went first and then it was me and Kieran's turn.

Completely uneventful going to the right, but then we went around to the left and, uh. Well. See, I was using a new girth that was a bit longer (but without any elastic!) than my usual girth. And I apparently didn't tighten it up enough. And I must have put too much weight in my outside stirrup as we came around the turn at the top of the ring.

So we're going around and I'm thinking about how much fun this is and then, "...why is Kieran tilting to the side? No, he's straight....-OH CRAP I'M FALLING!" And you know, I roached his mane so I had nothing to grab on to and the saddle was literally hanging off his side and I went. Mostly hit hip and knee first, but also managed to smack the side of my face and head a bit on the ground so already ordered a new helmet, just to be safe. And also, apparently, managed to smack the heel of my opposite foot somehow too because it's actually the part of me that's most sore today, I don't even get how that works.

So, slowly got up, and we retrieved Kieran (he'd run away to the other end of the ring to stop and have some crisis eating to make himself feel better, hah), fixed the saddle, and then Jessica made me go take a little walk to get my gatorade and have a drink and wait for the shaking to stop before she let me get back on. That done, we did and then we had to trot in big circles around the circle of jumps and then when he felt relaxed again and not just running off at the trot, did some nice cantering in the same circle.

All settled again, Jessica explained that the rest of the lesson would be about using the jumps she'd set up to make fairly sharp 'rollback' kind of turns around and that we could do it at the trot unless our horses felt like they could do a nice, relaxed and together canter, no barrelling around.

At this point, I honestly don't remember all the various little patterns she made us do. Started out with just popping over two at a time, and then she slowly added the rest in (and keep in mind, they weren't any taller than 18" verticals).

By the end of it, we did this pattern last:

Basically, come in toward that center jump, make a hard right 90 degree turn to the bottom one, then loop around and do the last two on a bending line.

My thing to work with Kieran on was keeping a nice, easy, forward canter and really thinking about where I was going so Kieran knew where we were heading and could set himself up for it. Our last go-round was really beautiful, we were both ready and he gave my a great loop from that bottom jump to the corner one and just...

Seriously, this horse makes me so freaking happy. :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Letting go and Transitions

So tonight we actually shared our lesson with another boarder, but that was nice to have someone else in the ring to keep things interesting. Plus, a big part of the lesson (we did all flatwork tonight, Kieran was visibly disappointed there were no jumps) was using my seat and legs to communicate with Kieran and not so much with my hands (we had to really loosen up on the reins and only use them very lightly) to make transitions and turns. So you know, when he wanted to follow chasing after the other horse and I was like, "noooo, we're doing a halt transition now" that made for a good teaching moment. ;)

Anyway, both of us were warmed up by the time Jessica got there (she was running late) so we got started right away. She set up the trot poles like you see below (and the circles represent cones, though my drawing isn't to scale) but we didn't use them quite yet. The idea was that we would, indeed, do a posting trot around the ring and do trot->halt transitions. So I had to sit really deep to ask for the halt and try not to really pull back with the reins at all. The first few times, he slowed down pretty quickly, but we'd get half a dozen walk steps before he'd fully stop. But as we continued, the walk steps got less and less until he was halting pretty quickly and giving me nice ones to boot. Not perfect, but acceptable, and you could tell he was thinking about what we were asking him to do and trying to figure it out. Jessica mentioned to me that when I went to ask him to stop, I tended to stick my legs forward and my leg would come off of him and I should think about sinking my weight straight down and pushing on his withers (so to speak) and think of my legs coming back instead. I think my problem there is because I was really thinking about sitting back on my proverbial seat pockets and leaning too far back and pushing my feet forward to compensate. So once I started sitting more straight down, our halts improved.

After that, she had us do transitions within the trot so we would stretch out on the long sides and then kind of collect up on the short sides. Kieran figured this out really quickly.

And then we used the trot poles and cones for weird sort of figure eights. Jessica had the other boarder using the diagonally set up poles on the right and had me using the ones along the rail on the left. Anyway, the idea was to trot over the poles, then turn toward the cone nearest us, go inside it (inside being closest to the poles, not closest to the inside of the ring), turn a circle around it, then come around and do the poles from the other side. I drew a blue line to make it make more sense. Still, the idea was to use our legs and seat for turning. Kieran was pretty phenomenal here, really.

After this, Jessica spread out the distance for the poles on the right to make them canter poles. The ones on the left stayed trot poles. Here, the idea was to go over the canter poles, come around between the cones, then between the last two poles (parallel with them), then make a right turn (simple change) around toward the trot poles and somewhere before them, start trotting over them and go straight down to the fence at the top of the ring. I drew lines again to make it make sense.

So here we had to combine the transitions with the changes of direction and basically everything we'd worked on for the lesson. We went through first and then Jessica had us say one thing we did really well and one thing we didn't do so well. The first time, Kieran gave me a really lovely simple change in the corner but I waited too long to ask for the trot transition before the poles and it wasn't really pretty there.

So then, she told the other boarder to take what we said and you know, do it herself with that knowledge. Once she was done, she stated what her one good thing and one bad thing were and then it was our turn again.

We did much better this time with the trot transition but the simple change in the corner was a bit wonkyslow. Jessica mentioned after we were done that it was actually a really good thing because what happened was she said she could see Kieran when I sat to ask for the transition sort of prepare himself to give me a flying lead change there. Then I asked for the simple change and it took him a second to catch up. But anyway, he did really really well and I'm really proud of him.

I can't wait for our lesson on Sunday. :)