Friday, March 29, 2013

When just going isn't enough

Last night I had my first jumping lesson since last April, I was so excited and I think it paid off.  The main goal of the lesson was to see where I was jumping wise, to see what H thought of the TWH's jumping and what she thought a good plan for our TWH would be.

I have been jumping him in a simple gymnastic grid, with trot poles to a jump to a one stride, I like it as it is a good training jump that encourages the horse to learn how to approach a jump and is a good foundation of learning.  H said since we had jumped it for 3 days it was time to mix it up so she immediately took the entire thing down and moved it to be 3 individual, free standing jumps.  She kept one jump on the long side, one jump on the diagonal and one jump on the short side.

After a good warm up, which she said she liked my two point position and was happy that I was equally weighting my stirrups (Yay!), she had me pop over a tiny 18" crossrail down the long side.  She then had me do it second time, but this time to push the TWH at the jump and don't let him just hop over it so I did.  That set the tone for the rest of the lesson.  Forward.  She raised it to a 2' crossrail and we repeated the exercise and with a good squeeze, he sailed over it without any issues.  H raised the crossrail to a 2' vertical and put the jump on the diagonal as a 2' vertical and had us jump them together and as long as I stayed engaged and pushed him, he soared over the jump.  As soon as I sat back as a passenger and gave him the responsibility of figuring it out, he would slow down to a collected canter and usually knock the pole with his hind end.

She then set the jump on the short side at 2'3" and put a barrel under it and had us come at it.  The TWH cantered to it nicely but had a momentary lapse of thinking, almost stopped and then leapt over the whole thing.  As a result I was been thrown forward from the abrupt tempo change and on the landing I tried really, really hard to fall off.  With a pretty impressive effort, however, I grabbed some mane and hauled myself back into the saddle, letting gravity lick it's wounds from the defeat of my fall.  H even said it was an impressive save and had me come back at it again but this time use even MORE leg and a good strong kick if needed. This time around I sat way back and drove him to the fence and despite being a little wonky at the takeoff, he jumped it nicely.  H and I can only assume his first reaction was due to a weird shadow that was at the base of the left hand side jump but hey.  At least he didn't refuse!

We played with the long side and diagonal jumps a bit more before finally bumping the long side up to a 2'6" ascending oxer.  No big deal since we jumped 2'9" on Wednesday, but she made the jump almost 4 feet wide!  I am a person for punishment and while I mentioned it was a bit wider then we have jumped, maybe ever?, I was game for it and the TWH soared over it.  And I do mean soared, H said he cleared it easily with another 6 inches to spare in height and it was impressive the push he gave to clear the width.

The results of the lesson?  I need to work on myself more, no big surprise there.  While I have good equitation, I didn't pull his mouth at all and my lower leg is quiet over most of the jumps, when we go faster AND bigger my lower leg becomes unsteady.  Not a lot, but enough that I notice and it isn't acceptable.  I need to fix that.  Why?  Because H says the TWH needs to jump at a pretty steady medium canter, not the nice collected canter I have been jumping him in.  I need to easily go 3mph faster in the canter to give him the impulsion to clear the fences with his hind end and to keep him at a jumping pace he is more comfortable in.  Yikes!  We have work to do.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If you are happy and you know it, jump around

Last night was my first jumping session since my failed attempt in November, where my knee blew up to the size of my thigh, and only second session since my surgery last year.  I can say it was not only successful but I have recovered today without being any worse-for-wear.  Yay!!

Unfortunately my arena is currently a collection of mishaps which results in an an area of 50x50 that I can use instead of the full 50x100.  An almost 15x5 foot section in the front of my arena has had the base be washed away by the multiple floods so there is a sinkhole that is soft and unrideable and in the rear about 15 feet is taken up by hay and miscellaneous farm equipment.  The farm equipment typically isn't bad to work around however since the hay is taking up the 3/4 of the back wall where the equipment normally lives, the equipment is now in a rectangle away from the wall that blocks more of the arena.  Ugh!  After jumping last night, however, I am more determined to resolve this so I moved a good bit of hay and at lunch will move the hay fencing to free up about third of the area that is currently taken.  I just don't have room!!  Hopefully in the next weekend or two I can fix my sinkhole and have even more of my arena back.

I am currently scheduled to have a lesson with H on Thursday.  Since I am now satisfied with my two point I needed to start jumping so I would look like I kind of knew what I was doing again.  Jumping was really hard to work on thanks to my arena predicament however I was able to squeeze (really squeeze) a simple gymnastic with 2 trot poles to a jump to a one stride.  The TWH did really well trotting over the poles on the ground and didn't even blink when I raised jump 1 up to a measly 18".  Yay TWH!!!  I went over it several times before raising it up to 2' and he was meeting the jump well.  At this point we had a couple of issues with the approach, he would try to canter into it instead of trotting but a very stern halt/back/kick forward fixed his approach.  My position certainly isn't BAD but I don't think it is certainly GOOD at this point either, which showed later on.  More homework!

I bumped jump 2 up to 18" and we worked on the two jumps for a little while, mostly for me to stay back and remember to close my hip angle over the jumps, and the TWH did well.  He met the first jump well and was confidently stepping over the second jump so I bumped the second jump up to 2' as an oxer instead of a vertical.  He tried rushing into the trot poles at a canter a few more times so we had the halt/back/kick discussion again, it also resulted in me having to hop down to reposition trot poles.  Twice.  After the third disobedience he seemed to decide it was easier to do as asked and trotted into the poles the rest of the ride without an issue.  Sheesh.

For the finale I bumped jump 2 up to 2'6", this is what I consider our base schooling height.  It is the max height for Beginner Novice, back in 2011 it was what I schooled over regularly.  I pushed the TWH through the course for the first time and he seemed a little surprised but jumped it nicely.  The second time we went through is when he started struggling.  I didn't have anyone there to tell me what he was doing or to give input but it felt like he jumped the first jump, slammed on the brakes in the one stride and then leapt over the second jump.  This is where my subpar position came into play and I *just about* came off.  Geez horse, I thought we were past that part in our relationship!?!  I went through again and was prepared so I didn't try to fall off, but the TWH repeated his behavior and I wasn't as balanced as I should have been.  To my credit, however, I didn't touch his mouth and instead grabbed his long, thick mane to rebalance.  Something I can't do with my poor App as he has no mane haha!

Since it felt like he was slamming on the brakes, thus throwing me way forward, before leaping, the next time through as soon as he landed over the first jump I give him a good hard kick and he soared over jump 2 without the abruptness.  Success!  We went through one more time with a good solid, hard kick to remind him to stay forward and when he jumped the second jump correctly I gave him a short rest.  I can only think he started to panic and since it was big (scary?), he forgot how to properly jump it so he was leaping over it.  I do remember a very vivid picture of seeing his knees coming up, which wouldn't be that impressive except I wasn't looking down and still saw them in my peripheral vision.  I wish I would have gotten that on video, I am curious just how high he was bringing his knees those first few times!!

To finish I put him through the course 5 more times to really reinforce how to do it and to see if he would make the braking mistake again but he was a good boy and we ended on a really good note.  I am hopeful for company tonight when I jump but if not then it isn't that bad because I have my lesson with H on Thursday.  We are on our way to being real eventers!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fitness Success!

After my last lesson both H and I agreed that it was time to start focusing on jumping in order to get the TWH and myself in shape to go cross country before our show in May.  That meant I had to try to get up to 5 minutes in two point first, why 5 minutes?  My self imposed rule says that I need to have a secure base and muscle memory before throwing the TWH over jumps since he is so green at it.  If/when he messes up, he is going to need me to tell him how to get out of the mess and I can't do that if I lose my balance or don't have the fitness to stay with him.  Now if I was riding the App?  No worries, I would have already been jumping as he doesn't need help.  He can be at a bad distance or almost fall down and still figure out how to get over a jump.  Since I am working a greenie, however, two point it is.

Unfortunately last week I didn't get to ride almost at all, SO was out of town so everything fell onto me.  Chores, feeding, cleaning, did I mention another contractor to reinstall our half bath?  Monday night was paint, paint, paint trying to get the room ready (3.5 hour project), Tuesday night was running errands and going from store to store trying to find new hardware.  I guess no one sells a toilet paper holder that goes onto the wall anymore?  Meijer, Big Lots, Kohls and WalMart were all duds!  The search continues.  Wednesday was having a friend over to visit, Thursday was going to RB4's house for dinner and Friday was going to pick up my pelleted bedding that finally came in at the farm store.  Blech.  Everything needed done and was important but none of it was riding.

When I rode the previous weekend I had been able to get up to 3 minutes of two point before crashing so this past weekend I was determined to do better.  On Sat I took the TWH and the dog out for a fitness ride.  We went on the short loop which is 3 miles of dirt roads.  While there was a lot more fighting with the TWH to trot then I would have liked, as he kept gaiting when he didn't stay organized, I got a good workout put in.  When we were almost back I turned around and did a .6 mile canter before stopping because the dog was SO tuckered out.  We had a pretty nice stroll back to the barn and the next day I wasn't even that sore!
Fitness!  (Shepard is on a retractable leash)
Sunday I had to really squeeze in a ride because RB3 ended up coming over rather randomly and she wasn't in the mood to ride.  When I mentioned I happened to buy a western saddle for one of my students to ride him, she suddenly perked up and was willing to ride so despite having only 30 mins to do so off we went on a ride!  The downside is the western saddle only fits the TWH so I wasn't able to nit pick him, I rode the App.  The App was, well, in true form.  Since I have been working the TWH almost exclusively, the App hasn't gotten out of the arena much this winter and he let me know it.  He jigged most of the ride and holding him to a trot was really hard.  I felt like I was riding an on-the-track TB and I probably looked it too.  Towards the middle of the ride we were getting close to missing our time mark so we cantered for a while, I practically had the App's chin to his chest to keep him from flat out galloping away.  Ugh App!!  I will say, however, I think I am now fit enough in two point to jump!

Today I am S. O. R. E.  My legs are actually not nearly as bad as my core and shoulders, most likely from hauling on the App to keep him semi sane.  Note to self, next time put his dang-gone cross country bit in!  There is absolutely no need to subject myself to that kind of behavior.  It certainly does make me appreciate the TWH more though :)

Not sure if I will be able to throw my leg over a horse tonight, will see how well the Advil works, but I have until Thursday to jump.  Thursday is my first jumping lesson with H, I am excited to see how it goes.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lessons and two point

Dressage with the TWH is coming along pretty well, his transition into the trot is perfect with plenty of impulsion and suspension.  His trot is swinging with decent suspension.  His free walk is low and loose.  His trot to canter transitions are amazing with lots of roundness and they even start from his hind end. The only real issues we still have is the canter being a panter, which we probably won't ever fix, and the one to two steps of pace before he picks up a trot in the down transition.  Overall not bad!

I have had 2 lessons since I updated last and they both went pretty well.  H is very happy and impressed with the TWH's progress considering just a few months ago we couldn't get a true trot let alone a canter/trot transition.  She is very happy with my position and she only mentioned anything about my wide hands only once in my last lesson.  ONCE!!!  Progress indeed.

Our last lesson focused mostly on the canter to trot transition and trying to sharpen it up.  H had us canter a circle and break into a trot about 8 feet in front of a trot pole, hoping that it would force the TWH into a trot.  Despite trying it several times, the single pole simply accentuated the fact he was pacing and made him delay the trot by up to a quarter of a circle.  Since I had taught him to trot over multiple poles I suggested putting 2 or 3 poles down.  Two poles was the magic number, if I asked for the down transition about a stride away from the poles half of the time he broke from a canter into a true trot with no pace steps.  Yay!  We can use it as a helper although a little more consistency would help though as the times he doesn't go into a trot he instead would fall completely apart and have a hard time pulling a trot together at all.  H said it is like teaching him to dance, he doesn't know how to really trot, we just taught him the steps.  He obviously doesn't know how to truly canter but we taught him the footfalls.  He doesn't know how to give the down transition so we are re-teaching him the steps.  He is so frustratingly ambidextrous but she sees him as a fun challenge.

When we haven't been working on dressage we have been instead working on our two point.  After my last lesson H and I agreed that there isn't too much more we can do with him in dressage.  At least in my little arena with at least a third being out of commission with hay storage and now a big sinkhole that formed as a result of the flooding I had.  Since my first show is May 5th I figured I need to get to jumping so two point here I come!  I am, however, taking it easier than I did last year, where I ended up tearing my calf muscle by doing two point too aggressively.  A nice warm up with some standing two point is followed with several laps of two point at a trot and canter before I "go for the glory" and see how long I last in two point.  The first time I rode I was able to get about a minute and a half in two point.  The second time I was really upbeat and excited about how long I was lasting in two point!  Before I realized I made it only 2 minutes.  The crushed look on my face made my friend laugh, I thought I had done so much better!  When I rode on Wednesday I was finally able to make it to 3 mins 10 seconds.  I have only had 3 rides of two point so as long as I keep this pace up I should be jumping next week!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Renovation rant

So for something completely off topic, here is my rant.  We are slowly trying to fix our house up, while it is in good structural condition it desperately needs several remodels.  Our place was built in the late 1800's/early 1900's and some of the updates that have been done have been headscratchers.  We have had the entire plumbing/pressure tank/water softener redone, had an on-demand water tank installed, had a wood stove installed and replaced some light fixtures.  Next on our list was the kitchen/hallway/bath flooring.  This is the story of that.

I contracted with the Home Depot to rip up my old floor and put a new one down because the old for was horrible.  It was cheap stick-on vinyl tiles from at least the 90's and they were cracked, peeling and broken and we finally had 5 full tiles come up so it was time for a change.  The process was supposed to be easy.  It should have been a sign when it took over an hour to pay for everything (not pick things out, just pay for it) because the flooring guy didn't know how to do set things up.  I paid for it on the 14th of Feb.  The installer would come out, do a quick inspection, schedule to rip out the old floor and subfloor, install a new underlayment and put down the vinyl.  Easy peasy.

On the 19th they came out and did the inspection, the guy said it looked like the subfloor would need to come out and he would do the underlayment, no problem.  They finally scheduled the install on the 26th.  On the 26th they came out and ripped out the tile squares and subfloor.  After they ripped it out he called me downstairs and said we had a problem.  The original floor is the 1900 barn wood floor that we suspected it was.  The bad part was it was extremely unlevel and he couldn't put the underlayment down.  There is a spot over a support beam that is up to 1/2" higher than the rest of the floor.  Several of the boards are also knotty and uneven, up to 1/8" unlevel.  Since he was contracted with the Home Depot, the Home Depot would require a new subfloor/underlayment to be level.  Since there was no way they could make the floor level, they wouldn't put down the subfloor or underlayment and I had to find someone else to do that.  The installers cleaned up, threw the waste in my dumpster (grrrr!!!) and left.

On the 27th I had someone come in and put down a new subfloor and while there is still a quite noticeable hump by the support beam, the floor is pretty level now.  I called the installers back the morning of the 27th and they said they couldn't come back out until the 4th.  Of course not.  The intsallers came back on the 4th and said while the new subfloor install wasn't spectacular, they at least don't have to put down this new underlayment.  I asked them a couple of questions and one of them was about the base molding we have, they said they would be laying the vinyl to the base molding, not under it, and then putting quarter round molding against the base molding.

I told them that was unacceptable and started pulling the base molding off myself.  The guy must have recognized the anger level I had and said he would take the base molding off so the vinyl would go to the wall.  In the end the vinyl was down, he put the base molding back on (no charge!), threw more trash in my dumpster and said I could contact the Home Depot the next day for a refund of the installation charges of the underlayment and quarter round molding they didn't end up using.  He also said to wait 2 days before putting anything heavy on the vinyl so the glue could set.

The next day the Home Depot said the refund was ready but since I was returning the quarter round molding, they would just wait until I could bring the materials in on the 7th and they would refund everything then.  Okay, fine, I told them I would be in Thurs night.  I went in Thurs night and spent 45 minutes waiting for them to try to figure it out and they couldn't.  Because there was a materials refund plus an installation refund, no one could get the refund right and they wanted to try to refund me only $600 instead of the $800 I was due.  ARGH!

Home Depot said to come back on the 8th and they would make sure it was ready, I said I would go at lunch.  We went home and put the house back together, what happens?  The fridge wrinkled the vinyl in 3 places and there is a small tear (that doesn't go all the way through) in the vinyl.  

I went to the Home Depot last Fri at lunch and they did have my full refund ready, thankfully. I asked them about a warranty claim, when we first chose the flooring, before it was purchased, the flooring lady said the warranty covered any kind of rip or tear, even from appliances.  The customer service lady I had been dealing with said she would look into it, I forwarded her some pics of the damage and we left.  I got the call a few hours later and low and behold the Home Depot will not cover the damage because it was due to appliance installation and "that isn't covered".  I informed her I had been told it was and she said we may have been told wrong but that they would email me the warranty info as well as instructions on how to fix the damage ourselves.

That was it.  I told her I would never, ever use the Home Depot "Professional Installation" service again, it was ridiculous that there was a rip in my brand new floor that I have waited almost three weeks for and to have a good day.  

Now just have to find time to cut up my new floor to put this new 3x2 foot section of flooring down to fix these wrinkles/tear.  It has been a miserable, miserable experience.  I didn't have a stove for almost 2 weeks.  I still don't have the half bath back.  Do not recommend!