Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Short & Sweet...

To be honest - I am not in the mood to be writing, so very quickly:
We did a schooling show on Sunday - he was super - I just have to ride him better...and I feel like a record on repeat every time I write that
We're going to John's place again on Saturday for some more XC schooling.
Sigh - I can't believe the eventing season is over...it definitely didn't end as I had thought it would...that said, I am grateful for being able to event at ALL this summer with Chester. The plan for the winter is to build Chester's back end power, get comfortable working through gymnastic lines and fine tune my aids...we will absolutely be going to some indoor hunter shows...which will be great for my equitation as well as for Chester.
We aim to start next Spring in Pre-Training with the move up to Training after the Championships...here's hoping Chester stays fit, healthy and more importantly continues to love me everyday, just as much as I love him....
Riding tonight - can't wait to see my boy...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Own Good Advice...

Yesterday, in general, was a pretty shitty day. In the sense that I was in a bad mood, work wasn't the best, the drive in the morning too FOR eeeevvverrrr and I was basically the definition of "m'eh" by the time I was pulling into the barn. Awesome.
Note to Self: Do NOT try and dressage school when you are in a bad mood and tense...especially when you own a red-headed uber sensitive TB...
After a fantastic dressage school on Saturday, I was pumped to have it continue...and have decided that 2 out of my 5 rides a week will be solely for flat work...in which I spend as much time as possible with no stirrups and at sitting trot..which frustrates me (because I do not yet have a full independent seat) and probably more so Chester because I am sure he is thinking to himself: "GREAT, here comes the dressage saddle which means her fat ass is going to be bouncing around up there for a solid hour. Wicked". Well, I should have known better then to try and dressage school when I am not completely clear headed...It wasn't the best of schools to say the least.
I should also add to that, that the footing outside was pretty deep because it had stormed BIG TIME the night before...which reminds me about the storm...I'll get to that...which makes me nervous because of his stifles...and I could tell when I got out there he wasn't moving as freely as he normally does. I ended up schooling him inside for about 20 minutes, which was better then outside, but I should have literally just gone for a walk.
As for the storm, picture this. It is Tuesday at about 2:00 a.m...I wake up to rain POUNDING down...I am a very deep sleeper and it takes a lot to wake me up....along with the pounding rain, there was thunder and lightening. I was like, okay, no big deal, it'll be over soon...well, 2 hours later, IT WAS STILL STORMING...I was pacing around the house in a panic. Chester was outside, in that weather, in a field, with no shelter with METAL SHOES ON...needless to say, after last night, he will now be spending his nights inside....I can not deal with the thought of something bad happening to him which is totally preventable...and I will feel much more comfortable when he has a shelter.
Anyways - riding again tonight - jump school. Tomorrow he has off. There is a small schooling show at the barn on Sunday and I might take him into the jumping classes HC...we shall see...I'd much rather be going to Grandview though...sigh...this season didn't end up the way I thought, that's for sure. That said, I am pretty confident we'll be starting out next April at Pre-Training and moving to Training AFTER the Championships...that's the plan anyways.
More soon...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Great Weekend!!

Well, maybe it didn't start off that way....but it ended on a high.

Thursday saw the Pickle having the day off so I could hang out with my 2 legged main man. We went on a date, had some fish&chips, beer and a good time
Friday morning I get up and leave for work as per the usual. I get onto the highway, drive for about 3 minutes and my tire bursts..not a slow leaking flat, but absolutely BURSTS. Thankfully I was only a couple minutes out of town and although I fishtailed, there was no one around, I didn't hit the median and no one got hurt. It could have been much worse then it turned out to be. Long story short, I end up spending $300 on a tow and used tire all before 9:00 a.m....I guess the good way to look at it is I paid $300 to have a long weekend...At this point in time though, I would have rather saved the $300...brutal.
Friday afternoon's ride was great! I am riding outside as much as I can now, because I would say in the next week or so - riding outside after work - is going to be a thing of the past until next Spring. We worked on being FORWARD...my nemesis...and I would just keep my legs on, give Chester a little check to the jump and let him find his way there. It is good to school over little jumps, so that we can practice our footwork and not worry about a monster fence sitting in front of us!
Saturday - what a day that was!! I broke out the dressage saddle and really worked on connecting with him, strengthening his trot work, receptiveness to my aids and of course, riding him properly from back to front...I really think it isn't a fluke anymore and I am really understanding how to ride him better. :-) I am sure he appreciates me for it. We did some leg yielding, some shoulder in and and trying haunches in - but I need the boss' help for that one so I know I am doing it properly. All in all, it was a superb ride and one that I will hope to keep building upon.
Sunday - I was uh - not really in the state of mind to be bouncing around at anything faster then a walk...so, we went on an amazing hack...the weather was beautiful and we were out there for a good 90 minutes. Walking the entire way - well, we did have a little canter in one of the back fields and it was totally heavenly. Jen's property is amazing and it also is a working cash crop farm. You can hack alllll the way back to the 401...and, as the picture shows - you are pretty close to it! :-)
If it is possible for me to love Chester any more then I already do, it is on days like Sunday...
It is hard to make out, but that is the 'Cobourg' sign on the 401 looking East-bound as you are coming into town. I'm literally at the edge of Jen's property...cool huh? On our way back, I popped him over a couple of the tiny xc jumps out in the field, just for fun...I should have reminded myself though, that my leg has to be on...because as we were coming into a tiny log - at a trot - I was ho humming it and he decided to ho hum it himself...and came to a stop in front of it...my mistake...and it was a big one...so, we came at it again with more enthusiasm and he was his normal brave self...

Schooling tonight - I know we won't be able to be outside - stupid sun going down earlier now - so I am going to set up a gymnastic line and school over that...hopefully someone is around and can help set jumps for me. If not, then I will make an oxer and work on his front end...

More soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Wow - a whole WEEK with no posts...let me run down the past week for you..it has been a long one that is for sure.
So, remember Equus last weekend..? Here is how that unfolded:
Saturday afternoon, we move Chester up to Joyce & Kelly's barn. Because we were headed North and Chester is 30 minutes South of where Kelly and Joyce have their horses. The normal preparation of packing, bathing, braiding etc ensues. Great! the NOT great part - getting up at 4:00 a.m. for the 3 hour drive the next morning...Man, it is DARK on the 401 at 4:30 a.m. That's all I have to say. So, I am pulling into the farm which is about 40 minutes North of Orangeville. It is grey, dark, damp and dismal...a great day for eventing. As I am walking over to the Secretary's table, my phone rings and it is Kelly. As soon as I saw who it was, I knew there was something wrong.
"Um, we have a problem. The wheel fell off the trailer, the horses are in a Tim Horton;s parking lot in Port Perry and we are in Bailieboro trying to get another trailer."
"WHAT?! Are you guys okay? Are the horses okay?"
Everyone was fine...so, at this point in time Kelly's day was a write off because her times would have been over before they even could have gotten to the show. My times would have been pushing it. The earliest they would have gotten there would have been 1030, my dressage test was for 1055...not a chance that was feasible. So, we talked about it and I said to Kelly I would talk to the Secretary and see if there was the possibility of moving my time a little later and have her drop down into entry, but go Haut Concours (not judged). Long story short, the way the times worked out, there was no way that would have worked because I was already at the end of my division and they were jam packed. So, we made the decision to scratch. What a freakin bummer that was. So, by 9:30 in the morning, I had driven to and from 40 minutes North of Orangeville, or almost 500kms. It was a great start. NOT how we expected to be spending our weekend, that is for sure.
On Monday, when I got to the barn, I was still exhausted from the day before and everyone was just getting ready to leave. I looked at them all and said 'I am so not in the mood right now'. Jen said 'it's sort of an off day anyways' and that is all I needed to hear - Chester got the day off. :-)
Tuesday was fun. We rode outside - I am getting every last bit of riding outside that I can for the next couple weeks. It is DARK at 725pm...which is usually about 15 minutes AFTER I get on. So, I have a feeling my outdoor riding is going to be limited to weekends very soon. :( We did a course, then we jumped 3'6, on purpose, for the first time...reason being is were planning on going a fair this weekend ([plans changed, we're not going anymore), and I wanted to make sure we could do the max height that one of the classes was set for. Jen said to me 'At that height, he actually uses himself and JUMPS the jump'...needless to say, The Pickle can jump that height no problem. Good Pickle.
Wednesday - YAY WEDNESDAY....we returned to John Hobson's place for xc session #2. The goal 'get moving FORWARD and get INTO the WATER' was set.
Moving Forward - You know - I think I have figured this out. The problem (shockingly enough) is me...imagine that. After a disastrous gymnastic line to warm up (3 fences a stride apart), my canter is, in John's words, "None of this a la dressage canter bullshit, you have to RIDE him"...okay, that is problem #1. Problem #2 - I DO have my leg on...the problem, is that I hang on his mouth. Why am I doing that? Because, I think I am still a little hesitant/nervous/confidence lacking when it comes to jumping fixed obstacles at speed...why? Well, you take a 10 year break and come back into in when you are 30...I'm not as brave as I used to be. When and if I fall off, I KNOW how much it is going to hurt. I am 85% there. I even said it to John once 'I know what my problem is...my leg is on, but, I'm not letting him move into it because I'm holding him back." John, gives me a look and said 'I couldn't have told it to you better myself'. I need to trust my horse more. He WANTS to do it. He WANTS to make me happy. He TRUSTS me, I need to trust him more. In other words, keep my leg on, do NOT hold him back through his bridle. We moved up in complication from last time...big time. We did bigger drops, bigger banks, tougher combinations..and he was GREAT. We even cantered right to and over a ditch...with no hesitation. Now, if I can just be that bit more confident...we will HAVE IT. Now, the water. The little crossing...was not a problem in the least. Exactly like the last time, Chester was happy to go through it: walk, trot, canter. He was great. The water complex...he wanted NOTHING to do with it..even with another horse there to lead him through, he said, not a chance. On to Plan B. This included: a halter, lunge rope, rubber boots, lunge whip, and a very frustrated Carrie. Jen (who I have told will be coming with me as my groom when I move up the levels because of this exact situation), looks at me, takes the reins from my hands (because by now I have dismounted and am about to lose my shit) and says "be patient. He will do it." And she took and they stood, not moving at the edge of the water (after some coaxing of course). She just had him stand there, while we waited for John to come back and for me to calm down...because I was about to have a fit. After the coaxing with the lunge whip, John had Chester in the water!!! and he was happily *well, maybe NOT* happily standing in the water. After John walked him in and out several times, he to me 'Get on and get him through'...so on I get...and in we went!! HE DID IT!! :-) I was overly proud (and overly thankful Jen was there to keep me calm). We were walking, trotting, cantering, in and out of the water from all different directions. To end it off...we cantered in, through and OUT OVER A BIG LOG!! :-) YAY CHESTER!!! So proud of him. We'll go back in a couple weeks where we WILL be forward, we WILL be trusting of each other (me more so then him) and it will be the best damn xc schooling session EVER. And John is going to ride him so he can show me how it is done...THAT I can't WAIT to see...:-)
More soon...and I will try to put up some video later...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't Change Anything...

OKay - I don' think me understanding what 'forward' and 'ahead of your leg' is a fluke...and I hope I dont jinx myself for this weekend, but, I really think I have figured it out.
On Wednesday, The Pickle was feeling very 'up' and was acting like a total TB...spooky, snorty, prancy, and general pain in my ass. That being said, getting him forward was not a problem at all. We did 25 minutes of ring work, then trotted/cantered out in the big field. I popped him over a couple xc jumps just so he remembers what his job is and called it a day. He was great!! If I can go into the weekend riding him EXACTLY like I have been for the past couple weeks, then I fully expect we can get a score in the low 50s on our test. I don't really care what place we end up, I just want to always have that improvement...as long as we keep on improving, and having fun, that is all I care about....well, confidence is important too, but I would wager that if you are having fun, you are pretty confident. I have to pretend we are at home, not at a show and it is just Chester and I schooling...that's the only thing that matters. I'm going to ride him like I know I can and GO FOR IT.
This brings me to Equus....the times just got released and I am a little irked about it. With Kelly being a division higher then me, the times are always all over the place. I ALWAYS ask the secretary if I can be scheduled as close to Kelly's times as possible as she is my barn mate and we come to the events together. Well - we are basically as far apart in our divisions as we can get. She starts at 855 and is done at 1134. I start at 1050 and am done at 102...sigh...AND the event is in Orangeville, so it is a good 2 1/2 hour drive...awesome. 430 a.m. wake up call, here I come...balls.
Something else that I am not sure about - is that is looks like the Senior and Open divisions have been put together...which doesn't make much sense to me either...I am thinking for points and qualification purposes for the Championships...that said, I guess there is a bit of motivation involved when you think about it...wouldn't YOU want to beat a Canadian Eventing Team Member if had the opportunity...? I sure as shit would.
Riding tonight - will do the movements of the dressage test, jump a little bit and go for a loooonggg walk. Tomorrow - an easy 30 minutes and show prep.
Equus - BRING IT.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Own Light Bulb Moment...

...I think - and I use that word with a lot of hesitation - think that I am understanding, forward, contact and in front of my leg. That or last nights ride was a complete fluke.
This is the time of year that I love...Fall. It is a little cooler, everything gets really pretty, work is getting busy again and it is one of favourite times. What I DON'T love is the fact that it is now dark before 8:00 p.m.
Last night when I got to the barn, the sky was a little intimidating. While tacking up, I made the decision to ride inside because the sky was black, creepy and it was windy....riding inside lasted for 10 minutes. It was hot, dusty, not fun, and I have noticed Chester breathes a little harder when he is inside...probably because it is dusty...imagine that. So, we headed outside with the scary black sky in the distance. I have been working really hard at getting a bigger, bolder more forward movement from him...and I THINK - THINK - I have figured it out. It goes back to what John told me last week about having a more solid base. Your lower legs can be ON, but not asking for more. When you have that more solid base, you can feel the difference in the horse underneath you. So, with my legs on - I barely have to touch his face...just little pulses with my ring fingers and he rounds his back under me and surges forward. What a feeling. It is light, comfortable, manageable and most importantly rideable. I take that back - what is more important then that is that Chester - LOVES being left alone. I remember what Nancy Tapley (the amazing dressage judge from our first event) said to me: "He is looking for you to hold his hand. Don't grab it, but let him hold it. He needs you to be there for him" And I THINK I have finally figured that out. We will see if I can have a repeat performance tonight.
So - as we are riding outside, lighting appears in the distance...hum, not good. There are about 3 or 4 of us out in the ring and we see lightening a few more times. At one point, I pipe up and go 'okay - if I see lightening once more, then I think we should go in'...that ended up being the smartest thing I have ever said. We saw lightening once more, headed to the indoor and within 30 seconds of us being inside, the sky opened up. I have never heard such noise before in my life. Lightening, Thunder, RAIN, wind...holy...so our amazing schooling session got cut super short because I could hardly hear what I was thinking.
We'll do some flat tonight, then have a boot around the xc field to clear his lungs before Equus. Thursday he will have off. Friday lesson hopefully - and the EQUUS ON SUNDAY!!! :)
More soon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

3 Very Important Things...

...that I learned last week when I was off site xc schooling with the Pickle for the first time...
1 - FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD will be key to success with this horse on xc (shocking isn't it?!)
2 - I need to have a better base. My lower leg position sucks (I am not 1/2 as secure as I should be)
3 - Releasing is important....and I need to do a better job of it.
I learned a TON of other stuff too, but I will start with this for the meantime and sort of build from there. We went to John Hobson's property about 20 minutes down the 401 from Maplewood. His farm, is something else. It is beautiful. He and his wife have lived there for years, he is a retired school teacher and has been riding for literally 50 years. He is a horseman, true and true with a no nonsense, this is how it is and this is how I am going to give it to you. I LOVE him. We went in to the morning with the following goal. Get Chester doing the next level of xc: banks, drops, ditches, getting his feet wet, literally. Although lacking a little in confidence when it comes to something new, he is very very brave and will do just about anything I ask him to do. He trusts me and that is more important then just about anything else. My concern from the get go, was the water. He is absolutely petrified of it....we'll get to that in a bit.
We started off in the sand ring, over some stadium jumps so John could get a feel for what Chester (and I) could do. Once comfortable with how I ride, my level and with Chester we moved onto some little banks...as in tiny...up and down. Chester went, yeah, whatever. He only stopped once...and that was after coming up a steep slope, a stride and then a 3 foot drop down...which literally took him by surprise he sort of went 'uh oh, whats THAT'..and just stopped. He didn't freak out or anything just stood there, snorted at it and stood there...we tried again the second time and he nailed it. What I reallllly need to learn...is that 'drops' of no significant size (i.e until we hit training level) can be ridden in your every day 2point over fences position...that was the hardest thing for me to understand. We did skinnies, banks, combinations, you name it, he nailed it. We showed him a ditch...let him get right up to it, take a good sniff, then approached at a trot, he sailed over...then at a canter - and he sailed over that as well. GREAT! We increase the width and depth of the ditch...come at it at a strong trot...he saw it said 'WHoooaaaa!! whats that!!!???', stopped and balked a little. We regrouped - I kept my leg on - and over he went. John then introduced a rail over the ditch and Chester just popped right over like it was no big deal...and, it wasn't...he was a champ. I was so so so happy with him. Water time....there were 2 waters. The one we started with, was a simple water crossing, down a little slope, across 20 feet of water, up a little slope canter on out into the field. He didn't like it very much at first but after some encouragement, he walked right in. Then trotted right in. Then cantered right in. Huh - maybe this would be easier then I had anticipated. Once Chester was comfortable (and by comfortable, I mean attacking the water with no hesitation) John said it was time to move over into the water complex. Ahhhh - the water complex. It was a typical water in which there were any number of ways to get INTO and OUT OF the water. Drop in, bank out, little log out, it was all there....and I was really looking forward to him going in and out and over the little drop etc. Chester however, had other ideas. He simply refused to set foot anywhere remotely NEAR the water, let alone thinking about walking/trotting/catering/JUMPING into or out of it. To the point where he was backing up away from it as quickly as possible...to the point where the added uh 'encouragement' from me was rendered useless...to the point where poor John couldn't even get close enough to lead him into the water without getting run over...to the point where I was beyond frustrated that he wouldn't do it. John eventually said 'forget it, take him back through the original crossing and watch that he doesn't balk at it." So, we went through that crossing and he could have cared less about it. I was beyond mad/frustrated. John said to me as we were walking back to the barn "Don't let that get you in a funk. He was a star the entire morning, it's hot out and he is tired. When you come back, our focus will be the water and by the end of it, he'll be going through it like he had been doing it his entire life." GOD - my words to Chester are this: Please grow a pair so we can move up a level and do more exciting things. We're going back next week. John LOVED him...and said I have to do a better job of riding him to help him more. He asked what my goals were for this horse, I said 1* level...a stretch would be 2*...his response to that was "He's scopey enough for 1* and then some." My answer back to him was "That's great, we'll work on the 'and then some' though." :-). That is where I would have to grow a pair....
We were on a mini vacation over the weekend and Chester had a much deserved 3 days off...which doesn't leave me with a lot of time before Equus on the 12th, but I think Chester likes having a few days off in a row here and there...it is as though he misses his work and is very eager to get to it after a couple days. He was a champ yesterday. Another thing I learned what that we should only do the same exercise twice. Any more then that is too much, leave it, go do something else, come back to it after so that no one gets bored and you don't give your horse the chance to start acting like a donkey. And, I focused on that when we were schooling, do something twice, move on to something else and come back. I am going to spend this entire week focusing on ME as the rider. Chester is GOOD. I know that, Joyce knows that, John knows that, EVERYONE knows that. It is up to me to ride him better so he can be GREAT. In preparation for Equus on the weekend, I will be focusing on riding him better, with more accuracy and keeping him in front of my leg at all times. I will keep my leg on, my hands steady and ride him as best as I can. We will flat tonight, jump tomorrow (little jumps where I will focus on ME), with a canter at the end, off on Thursday (or maybe just a long walk hack), Friday lesson, Saturday 30 minute school/dressage test, Sunday Equus. I have an expectation in my head and I plan on meeting it.
More soon.
Until then - it is forward, good lower body position and release...