Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hands like you trust 'em - Legs like you don't...

Yes.  I fell off the Psycho Mare.

Well, 'fall' might be a little dramatic...  I ceased to be mounted...

You see, we were taking a lesson.  She was learning how to maneuver a bounce.  I was working on my position over fences.
What my position over fences **should** look like...
Stick my butt out... Stick my boobs out...  Lift my shoulders... Breath my elbows... Now, KEEP IT THAT WAY IN THE AIR!  (oops)
My trainer's new mantra to me is "Point your boobs to the ceiling!"

One round, as we jumped into the bounce, I realized I had reverted back to 'bad position'.  So, I fixed it!  Go me!

Apparently, my fixing it threw the mare out of balance and she couldn't figure out how to jump out of the bounce...
So. She. Stopped.
This is where "legs like you don't" comes in...

Never mind that we had already gone through it 15 times!

Of course, I fell onto her neck...  And slid up to her ears... Where I passed "the point of no return"...  My own running commentary the entire time...  As, in slow motion, I somehow held onto her head... and put my knees in the dirt...  On the other side of the fence...

So, she's been under saddle for about 6 months.  It was bound to happen sooner or later.  I'm pretty glad it wasn't sooner!

I stood up, ready to hop back on and continue...  But the poor mare was visibly shaken!  She finished by S-P-R-I-N-G!-ing over the second jump if she felt like she was in a tight spot.

Lately, it is like I'm riding a totally different horse.  She is getting so mature!  She wasn't the least bit interested in taking advantage of my unscheduled dismount...  Who is this horse, and where has the Psycho Mare gone?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Our Debut Over Fences (part 2)

Here we go!

just a little to the left, huh?

It's SUPER Pony!

As the day went on, you could see her condifence gaining!
But let's not even talk about my equitation, OK?  *cringe*

Just hang on.  I've got this!

She makes 2'3" look so much bigger!

I'm sure we both loved the stone wall!

Again!  Isn't this jump great?
Psycho Mare, meet 2'6"!

No, I'm not proud of the way I'm riding this one...  But she looks so darn cute!

Perhaps some pony reins are in order?

I could have flooded you guys with pictures, but I tried to stick to the best and most exciting ones.  I even refrained from posting all the flat ones that all look the same.  ;)

Monday, May 20, 2013

What Was I Thinking? -or- Our Debut Over Fences (part 1)

Holy cow!
Be warned, this is a novel of a post...

For practice, we braided. I was going to wear a coat and everything just to make sure all was in working order. It’s been a while since I showed all out, and I have some new gear I want to be sure of… Overnight, she rubbed half (the MIDDLE half!) of her braids out (despite a hood), so I decided to scrub braids and show coat. Trailer had a flat! Good thing we scheduled extra time…

So, where’s the warm-up ring? No warm-up ring to speak of… We just rode in any open, grassy area… hopped over a tiny XC log in the middle of nothing in particular… So she remembered her gaits, correct leads, and that she is capable of jumping tiny things…

The cross-rail course looked so cute! We started with the 2’ hunters. I mean, she jumps 2’6” to 2’9” at home… Free jumping 3’ without even trying…

And let’s talk about preparing for this show! About a month ago, the Psycho mare lost her confidence when she stepped on herself going over a jump. When I say she stepped on herself, it looks like she scraped her back hoof straight down the back of her front leg from knee to fetlock! We took a week to let it start healing, then made it a point to boot up every single ride… Just as we were ready to start jumping again, a rule change at the barn made jumping in the indoor arena prohibited. At all. So, after much discussion, that was adjusted to jumping ONLY Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings between 7:30 and 8:30… Um, I get up at 4:45. My bedtime is 8:30. Why couldn’t we just jump somewhere else, you ask. Normally that would be fine, except that the spring rain we so desperately needed just would not go away. Ever. No turn-out. No outdoor arena (quick sand?). No grassy lot. No jumping. Two weeks before the show, we took a chance in questionable footing (super sloppy sand), and jumped over a tiny (12”?) rail just to remind the Psycho Mare that we do go over these things. Besides, eventing horses need to be able to work under various (even less-than-ideal) footing conditions and terrain. Once she remembered how to jump anything at all, we called it good for the day. The rains continued, and the focus on dressage remained. The week of the show, I managed to get in my one-and-only jumping lesson with the trainer. The exercises were great and incredibly helpful! I practiced the same things the next day. I had a straighter horse, but the jumping form from her was… well… inconsistent. Since we were just going for experience, I decided “at least I can get her over the fences” and figured we can work on form later. Trainer said, “Oh, yeah. Make sure you pop her over an oxer before you go so that she has at least seen one!” Guess what didn’t happen?

The 2’ course looked inviting. I noticed the fences looked more solid the further along the course we went, ending with a stone wall! I was slightly concerned about that wall, but mostly excited.
No, it wasn't quite that high when we jumped it...

I knew I could keep her straight (relatively). All I had to do was get her over them. Well, enough leg should take care of that… Into the ring we went! Here we are to make out debut over fences! We cantered to the first fence (a rail with some flowers under it) and she stopped!!

She never got wiggly. She didn’t slam on the brakes. She just collected herself to a nice round stop and looked at the flowers. Oh, no. This is not OK. She has to get over it! So, I grabbed mane, threw my heart over, and thumped her with my legs… and she hopped it! Hooray!

We trotted to the next fence. And stopped again. She didn’t try to step sideways or backward. It was always this nice, round, forward-moving stop… But it wasn’t over the fence! **thump** and over we went!

We did this for all 8 fences, including the stone wall. Now, I’m wondering if I should scratch the jumper classes we were going to do, and maybe even the entire 2’3” division…

I regrouped and went in for my second course, which was pretty much the reverse of the last course. I trotted the first fence, she cantered out and hopped right over the second fence… I was elated as I turned for the next line… and then I realized I was riding THE WRONG COURSE! They were generous and let me start over. =D

For the 2’3” division, we had more flowers show up, and she looked at each new thing… However, she looked at them while we were in the air jumping over it! Silly mare!

She quickly figured out this whole idea of courses: jump in the middle, stay on the straight line, jump in the middle of the next one!

She took a well-deserved rest while we cheered a teammate, then we came back for 2 jumpers classes: 2’-2’3” and 2’3”-2’6”. I studied our next course, and got really concerned about a particularly hard-looking turn… I had never asked her to jump so much twisty-turny stuff… Well, we were here for the experience, so away we went! I didn’t worry about time, I just kept her together and focused on tight, balanced turns. She didn’t even blink over the turn I was concerned about! It was the most fun ride I had ridden all day, and I had been having a ball in every one.

Remember how we never rode over an oxer? Like, ever? I considered the stone wall we had been riding all day an oxer. They had also been putting up 2 rails over the brick coop thing. She didn’t seem concerned about it. In our last course, however, we had to jump this:

Never jumped an oxer?  Do the swedish at your first show!

She was so confident that she knew what was going on, she didn’t even look at it until the last stride.  I felt her eyes go as big as saucers!  She threw in an extra half-stride to study it a little harder making her take-off spot ridiculously deep…  and pulled the back rail with a slight rub.  I wasn’t riding for time, other than the tight turns, but it turned out that we were nearly 10 seconds faster than every other ride.  Unfortunately, we were the only ones to pull a rail.  I could not be prouder of the Psycho Mare who started the day stopping at every 2’ fence and finished with a very respectable and handy 2’6” jumper course with only 1 rail down out of 57 jumping efforts!

You mean, we got a ribbon?
And who can complain about loot (or ribbons, at least)?
The goal for the day was to stay on and make it over the jumps!
We are *SO* ready for some cross-country schooling now!
More pictures from the show coming soon...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I was chatting with my trainer about my goals (short and long term), where I am right now, and how I expect to get where I want to end up. I told her that I wanted to go as far as I can in this sport, or until I lose my nerve. Her response was ridiculously insightful:

“If you lose your nerve, then you are lacking a skill. And that can be corrected.”

I don’t actually foresee losing my nerve along the way. The only reason I include that disclaimer is that I have heard so many other riders explain, “I’m perfectly happy to stay at Training level. Better yet, I don’t even need to do that. I’m happy to stay at Novice.” I’m getting older. It could happen.

I also understand that the jump from Novice to Training is rather significant…


I’ve ridden in a whole 2 schooling horse trials at the Beginner Novice level, and my current mount is schooling training level dressage with no cross-country experience to speak of. I truly have no idea what awaits us.

We have the occasional moment of brilliance where I feel a glimmer of the potential hiding inside of both of us. We also have the occasional loss of confidence over a fence. She recently scraped the hell out of the back of her front leg (assuming with the back hoof), likely as we were taking off over a jump. It’s no wonder she didn’t think she could go over the fence after that!

The common theme to my lessons seems to be the same whether it’s over fences or dressage:
- connection
- balance

More specifically:
- obtain consistent connection through the outside rein
- turn the shoulders (the head and neck are more like a hood ornament)
- lift the shoulders (she drops the inside shoulder and it is worse on the left)
- dressage before the fence – dressage after the fence
- STRAIGHT after the fence

There's something to be said for consistency, right?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Outside Rein Incongruity

I understand (in theory) what my outside rein is supposed to do.  The horse’s neck should fill the outside rein.  The outside rein controls the amount of collection.  The outside rein cues the downward transition.  The outside rein *is* the connection.  The problem?  If the horse is not accepting or taking the outside rein connection, you have no outside rein!


So, I’m continuing to ask and teach the Psycho Mare to accept and seek an outside rein connection.  I’ve been moving her shoulders around, but I didn’t realize how much more I could be moving them!  Then, I started moving her shoulders at the canter!  It never occurred to me to change the bend at the canter and switch up the “outside” rein.  I’m not quite getting it right, yet, but I’m getting the feel.  I now know what it *should* feel like, so I can keep asking until it *does* feel like that.  I now have an exercise that reveals all of my short-comings and exposes all of my horse’s weaknesses in one fell swoop.  And it forces us both to work on them!  Updates to come, I'm sure!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I did it...  OK.  The trainer did it...  BUT!  Now, I know how to do it, and I can maintain it!

Yes.  Her mane has been trimmed/pulled.

Great things sometimes come in small packages!
As a result, I braided my first ever real button-type braids!

With rubberbands, because I didn't have yarn.

BUT!  I got major compliments for my braid job!

What a lovely neck!
That neck completely alleviates any anxiety I had about hacking off her mane!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Hunter/Jumper show?

The little mare has some jump in her!

We sent her through the grid a few times. She got faster each time. She was particularly fresh (perhaps, too fresh?), and seemed to think that she was actually there to party in a Liberty class… Now, she just needs to slow down a little and then lift over the jump!

See the video here:  
Funny, she doesn’t jump that quick and flat under saddle…

So, anyway, I haven’t had a chance to school with her over XC. I breathe funny at the thought… In a good way! I’m really looking forward to it!

In the meantime, she needs to do more work over courses. We haven’t had many opportunities for that… So, we’re considering attending a hunter/jumper schooling show!

I’m given to understand that she isn’t really the ideal hunter (at least, not at this point in time), but by entering the hunters, I can still get her the additional experience over fences. I am still uninitiated in the ranks of Hunter/Jumpers.  Any advice/suggestions?


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