Friday, May 29, 2015

Second Horse Trial coming right up!

So things have been very silent over here because I haven't done much riding.  Preparing to sell our farm has taken a LOT of time and it isn't leaving a lot of time for much else.  It is now, sadly, on the market and things have slowed down so I have finally got back to riding.  Which is good since we have our second Horse Trial of the year on Sunday.  Yikes!

After our poor showing at the beginning of the month, I took a lesson with a new jump instructor, B.  It went remarkably well, she had us going through all sorts of crazy stuff.  She is big on jumping angles and skinnies and we did a lot of that.  She saw Mia's habit of stretching DOWN with her head during the jump and agreed I needed to try to stop her.  Mia puts her head way down which gives her tons of rein and is doing it for balance.  At least right now, she doesn't have the balance or education to be able to maintain herself after the jump with her current tactic and she certainly has problems with combinations as a result.  If I hold her over the jump, she will (and does) rip me out of the saddle to put her head forward and down.  If I let her go over the jump, she will likely accelerate quickly upon landing.  If I let her before the jump, she will likely jump flat and knock things over. The compromise is that I am holding her to the fence, giving her the rein to do what she needs over the jump and then pulling her up immediately upon landing, even if she fights and makes it look super ugly.  Fun!  B also said I should not change bits and should keep going in the snaffle.  I am sure that is the best way to go, I still had hoped for an excuse to bump up.  Ugh baby horses.

Mia then had a week of a break before we kicked off again.  Our first ride back was dressage and she was heavy, heavy, heavy.  She had no desire to really bend but wasn't all that bad.  Our second ride back, however, ugh.  Mia decide she could not horse.  Cantering to the right was something that only other horses could do, not her.  Consistent trotting was out of the question.  It was either slamming on the brakes or going forward with so much gusto that she is very clearly rushing and completely ignoring the aids.  And leaping.  There was leaping involved when I had the audacity to ask for an upward transition.  Fun.  Not.  We rode for almost an hour and a half before we got some semblance of a normal trot and canter back with Mia being halfway decent.  Not good, just halfway decent. At least no one died, right?

Our ride Wednesday was much more productive, Mia remembered that she COULD horse!  She COULD canter both directions, she COULD trot, she COULD bend, she COULD listen to my legs.  Oh my red mare, how fun you are :)  We had a pretty decent dressage ride and called it a night.  Last night, however, was awesome.  We had a fitness/jumping ride and Mia was on it.  I set 2 stadium fences up outside, a barrel on its side outside and created a "xc" fence out of some logs in the pasture.  After warming up, we trotted immediately outside and over the first stadium fence cold, no letting her see what we were doing but just immediately trotting outside and directly to the fence.  Mia was awesome and jumped it with no hesitation.   We then jumped the stadium fence to the barrel and she was perfect, no wiggles at all!  We then jumped the two stadium fences at an angled 3 stride and she, again, was perfect.  We jumped combinations of all of them several times before trotting down over the hill to the xc fence and just went to it.  No showing it to her, just going.  She did look at it but went forward to it with virtually no hesitation at all.  Yay mare!!  The last jump course we did was over the angled stadium fences, down over the hill to the xc fence, back up the hill and I was going to go around the barrel and go to the stadium fence.  As we approached the barrel, she locked onto the barrel, shifted her entire body to the right for 2 strides and jumped the barrel.  On her own!  None of that was me!

I am very optimistic after last night's ride, I think maybe, perhaps maybe my jumping machine is back?  She is still throwing her head way down and I am still fighting to keep it up but the fact that she had zero hesitation over any of the fences AND course corrected herself so she could jump a 4 foot skinny barrel that was just laying on the ground (with no standards) makes me very happy.  We have a dressage ride tonight and probably tomorrow, let's hope things go well for our show. Thankfully all the crap the mare has pulled over this past month is overshadowed by her two good rides :)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A hard lesson and a hard lesson learned

The horses got two days off after going cross country, as per usual.  On Wednesday I took a lesson with M and it went very well.  I hauled over to M's place alone, I wanted to see how Mia would react to a brand new facility without TWH there to back up her confidence.  She did very well, she called out a few times before settling into munching on hay while I tacked her up and we waited for M.  Our lesson was phenomenal, Mia was forward and tried really hard.  M loves Mia's mind and offered to buy her if I decide to not bring her to PA.  How funny!  We worked on really trying to control Mia's canter by riding 100% by seat and doing what we can to get her to balance herself.  It was a fun exercise and while it is very hard, I can see where it will help us long term.  I was also given the homework of lots of walk/canter transitions and sitting trot.  6 pack abs here I come!  I left the lesson feeling very worn out but very excited, I think some good progress is going to be made!

Our first big show was on Saturday and I had decided to bring Mia beginner novice.  I didn't want to overface her and wanted to give her as much confidence as possible so while I won't qualify for year end awards, it is better for Mia overall.  We proved last weekend that we could go Novice, now time to get the experience we need.  We got to the grounds with plenty of time and I started warming up for dressage when I realized I didn't know my test.  I was showing a new level, the only test I knew was the novice test!!!  OPPS!!!!!!!  I hurriedly grabbed my phone and downloaded the CORRECT test and read it over and over until I was fairly confident I wouldn't forget it.  Geez.

Mia was warming up only okay.  She was quite rushed and had no desire to bend.  There were a lot of horses around us who were not watching where they were going and despite being as far away from everyone as I could go, we kept getting people riding around us.  I practiced the test a few times and then watched 2 people ride the test to help solidify it in my mind and headed in the ring.  Mia was...okay.  It wasn't as good of a ride as last week, she braced against me for about half of the ride.  She was rushed and didn't want to bend and then also broke her canter stride.  Ugh.  I had even taken the time to braid her, so much for my efforts lol!

I had no time to worry about it, however, as I had to rush and walk the xc course.  They had allotted 1.5 hours between the two rides and then was 20 minutes late in dressage.  Time to boogie!  Fence 1 was pretty straightforward and 2 was nestled between some pine trees before a run through some very wet stuff to jump 3 which was high and dry.  Number 4 was an inviting log and number 5 was some barrels.  6 was hidden behind a pine tree (that I had to really look for) and 7 was an up bank.  Easy peasy.  8 was at the bottom of the hill that the up bank provided and 9 was also next to a pine tree.  10 was the water, 11 and 12 was inviting, 13 was another upbank.  14 was a small ditch and 15 was a log with some straw bales.  It didn't look that hard or complicated.

Mia and I warmed up and though the footing in warmup was very slippery, it didn't seem to bother her too much.  Mia knocked the stadium warmup fences over 3 times (of course she did) before I was able to get her to listen to me but I had no worries, Mia is a cross country machine.  Famous.  Last.  Words.

We started out from the start box and Mia immediately started sucking behind my leg.  We got over fence 1 without an issue but it wasn't smooth, she didn't drag me to the fence.  Hmmm.  Fence 2 came up and she darted to the right and ran out, all while running us into the pine tree.  Branches smacking us and all, not just brushing the tree but running through it.  I was completely taken by surprise and circled her around and she went over it.  We cantered to the swampy part where I then trotted and picked up a canter in front of fence 3.  We felt forward.  We felt good.  Until we didn't.  Mia did as dirty of a stop she has ever done and reared and lept over to the right, knocking the flag over and coming as close to getting me off as she did at the clinic, if not more so.  As in nothing but the grace of God did I stay on this horse.  I *may* have even accidentally yelled an obscenity, sorry if you heard the F word clear down in Alabama.  That was me.

I circled her around and beat her over fence three and was PISSED.  Where the hell was my xc machine?  Why is she suddenly behaving like this??  This is NOT acceptable!!  I galloped her to fence 4 which she took without even thinking about it and I thought we were back in it.  Ok, she had a bad start, we got this.  We came to the barrels of fence 5 and as soon as she backed off I smacked her with my crop but it didn't help, she again did a dirty run out and knocked the flag down in the process.  If I was pissed before, yeah I was irate now.  I put her over fence 5 with a trot up and a flurry of beatings and we went to fence 6.  She did NOT want to go over it but I gave her zero option.  I again slowed her down to almost a trot and then smacked her 4 times coming up to the jump, all the time screaming at her that we will NOT be eliminated at our first HT!

Yeah, I caused a scene.  I bet I was talked about.  I didn't get a talking to later though, so there is that.  Mia was very hesitant to go up the up bank but I trotted her up to it and smacked her until she was up it and then hit her as we got over fence 8.  We got to 9 and she wanted no part of it.  Thankfully I was smart, I had brought her back to a slow trot so I had more control.  When she tried to go left I blocked, when she tried to go right (into the damn tree), I smacked her.  When she tried to go left again I kicked and then I smacked her at almost a standstill over it.  Grrr.  The rest actually went pretty smooth for us.  The water wasn't an issue, there was a slight hesitation but nothing major.  I don't even remember fences 11/12.  The 2nd up bank was a non issue as was the ditch (surprisingly).  I sent her over the last fence and ended with 60 jump penalties and 13 time penalties.

I don't know what the deal was.  I don't know if it was the brand new venue with brand new jumps that she had never seen.  I don't know if she didn't have her confidence b/c we didn't have any xc warm up jumps.  I don't know if my not jumping last week was an issue.  I really don't know.  I DO know that I am going to talk to the new jumping instructor B on Wednesday about changing bits.  She had suggested it last year at the clinic and I think it is time.  The problem is that Mia puts her head SO far down over jumps that she either yanks me out of the saddle or ends up with really long reins and little control on the landing of a jump.  Grrr.

Stadium came up and it was surprisingly good.  Mia tried to be forward and an idiot but I was NOT in a good mood and I think she realized that she should probably behave if she wanted to survive to see home again.  I held her back at every fence and it really seemed to work, for the first time we went clear over stadium.  A small bright spot in our otherwise crappy day!

I thought we ended up dead last but to my surprise we ended up 11th out of 12.  Someone else had a really bad day with me :)  So my lesson learned for the day is to not be complacent in xc, Mia can decide to run out apparently and our xc rounds are not a given.  I need to try to keep my temper in check and try to have fun.  I need to make sure to practically stop her in front of a jump to really, truly control her, letting her find her stride and pace is not going to work right now.  I found that even bad days come to an end and pulled muscles do heal.  Eventually.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

This mare of mine

This mare of mine, she sure is testing my patience!  I turned the horses out Tuesday am and I put their fly masks on because I thought it was going to be warm.  I was wrong, it is only 55 outside, oh well.  When I went to lunch I went to the window and looked outside, I saw App standing at the gate just hanging out.  Odd, he usually only does that around feeding time so I looked around and saw Mia.  Wait, that is odd, Mia is outside of the pasture.  Wait, Mia is OUTSIDE OF THE PASTURE!?!?!  I did a quick gate count, yes all 4 are closed, where was TWH?  I walked quickly outside and Mia was all "Hey!  What's up?  Look, grass!"  I grabbed her fly mask and lead her back to the gate and put her back into the pasture.

I looked around and saw TWH in another part of the pasture, so at least that disaster was diverted, but where did Mia get out???  I didn't see anything obvious, not sure what else to do I went ahead and walked to the arena to turn the fence on.  The fence has been off all winter, there are some sticks on the fence and I wanted to clean them off before I turned the fence on for the year and I just hadn't gotten to it.  No worries though, I will just turn the fence on and turn it off later to clean the fenceline.  In the 45 seconds it took me to walk to the arena, grab the mounting block and plug the charger in, I saw how Mia got out.  As I plugged the fence in, I looked out of the arena door and saw Mia.  She was stretched down and was in the process of climbing out of the pasture through the 2nd and 3rd strands of fencing.  O. M. G.

At that moment I heard the click of the charger and thought "Welp, she is going to get it now".  This all happened in about the span of a second, not much I could do.  I watched Mia as she got zapped HARD (since my fence is about 8500 volts with 2.5 jules), she sat back and got herself tangled in the fence.  By this time I was unplugging the fence and Mia was on her feet and taking off across the pasture.  Her leg (or head?) was tangled in the top strand and, as it is supposed to, the fencing broke free from the post as it was ripped apart and Mia ran free from the tangle.  I jumped down and immediately ran to the fence, how the heck am I supposed to keep 3 now VERY amped up horses in a pasture when I have a 30 ft gap in my fence??  Geez.

Thankfully when I started messing with the fencing and they came to see what I was doing, I shooed them off and they went into the arena so I was able to close the gate to keep them out of the main pasture while I fixed the gap.  I didn't have any extra rollers (though I only needed the roller pins) so a quick trip to TSC and $14 later I had the parts to my fence.  A mere 15 minutes later I had the fence put back together and the fence turned on.  The only residual damage is Mia had knocked my fence post out of whack that the gate latch is on so now the latch is in danger of randomly swinging open. Smh.  It is currently tied with a lead rope until I can address it.

So I came back to work and happened to look out the window, what is seen?  Mia walks up to the fence, where she had scooted out (the first time, and also the second thwarted attempt), and puts her nose to the top strand of the fence and jumps back.  She puts her nose to the middle strand and sniffed it.  She then put her nose to the bottom strand and jumped back from a shock.  This is one smart mare, she is now testing the damn fence to see which lines are live.  Well, the fence is now on and it is going to STAY on.  No more lose mares causing havoc.  I swear I am about to contemplate that offer from M to buy Mia.  Damn horse!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mia's first Novice show

Sunday I woke up nice and early and man did my shoulder hurt.  I took a couple of Aleve and went about my day.  Mia stayed clean overnight so a rewash was not needed, TWH was not as nice and K had to give him another bath.  I love TWH but I don't miss that part!  Nor the 30 minutes of brushing out his tail!  Mia's mane by her head was pretty crazy so I got ready to braid it.  As I started the third braid, I noticed that 3/4 of her mane was 100% flat, straight and beautiful so I scrapped the braiding and just banded the crazy section.  Lazyness wins.

We got wrapped up and Mia decided, again, that she didn't want to load.  She got several hard jerks on her nose as she kept backing up before she decided that she can go forward.  After the third request to load she jumped on and we went on our way.  I was riding first and quickly got up to the warm up ring in case Mia decided to lose her marbles again.  It was amazing, however, she warmed up like she was at home!  I kept her speed down to an almost crawl until I was 100% sure she wasn't going to pull any stupid antic and she then stepped right up into a nice forward trot.  She listened to all of my seat aids and wasn't being an ass at all.  YAY MARE!!  I kept trying to get better bend but she wasn't giving it willingly and I wasn't about to start a fight with her, in no time I was called into the ring.

Mia was very steady through the whole test.  I was smiling the majority of the ride because while it wasn't a perfect test, she was riding very well and there wasn't much I would have changed!  We walked back to the trailer and had a quick lunch before getting ready for cross country.  Mia was nice and forward and warmed up very well.  I had a nice chat with some friends who were volunteering and off we went.  Mia was a little squirrely over the first 2 jumps and, of course, knocked a rail down on one of the stadium jumps.  Boo!  After that, I started really slowing her down and then kicking her over the jumps and she rode much better.  She really likes going cross country.  We walked down a big hill and trotted a bit to eat up some time and was able to successfully clear the last 3 stadium fences without knocking them over plus coming in at only 20 seconds shy of optimum.  Yay!

The results were finally posted and we went from 6th to 8th after the rail.  If she had been clear, she would have gotten 5th!  It is certainly something to aim for, perfection, and I am quite excited for her possibilities.  K did very well on TWH, he is such a good horse.  He went double clear as well and ended up 3rd in their division!!  She is so happy with him and loves his attitude so much, he is doing really good at showing her the ropes of eventing.  Hopefully the rest of the show season keeps up like this!

PS.  If you can't tell, this was written over a period of time.  The first was right after the show, the rest was a week later.  I am SO, SO busy I have almost no time to do anything that isn't work, ride, pack.  Never fear though, I have another update to post in a couple of days

Monday, May 4, 2015

Me and my big fat mouth

I have a big mouth, did you know that about me?  It gets me in trouble a lot, not as much as it used to but enough.  Well, this is a story about my big fat mouth.  So Sunday was my first show of the year, on Saturday I paid to do the schooling so I could be sure Mia would be good with the course.  We were moving to Novice for this first show of the season and despite going over everything 2 weeks prior, I know she is sticky over stadium fences so I wanted to make sure it was all A-OK.

K and I got to the facilities and met her dad and her cousin as they were going to follow us and take some pictures.  We started out over the stadium poles and, as expected, Mia decided that stadium poles in a field are HORSE EATING poles and must not be trusted.  She balked at them as we trotted/cantered by them during our warm up, over jumped the first stadium fence quite a bit and then went said nope, nope, nope to the second jump.  I had to smack her several times before she would even approach it and then leapt over it like it was on fire.  Ugh, come on mare.  We jumped over it several more times before she relaxed enough to jump fence two and with 2 hard smacks going to the third stadium jump, she then went over fence 3 without a refusal.  Ok, note to self, carry a crop to beat the pony over stadium fences.  SMH.

TWH was, unsurprisingly, awesome and was very happy to be out on course.  His little ears were pricked super forward and K said she could tell he was really enjoying himself.  Mia and I went over 2 novice xc fences before continuing on the path with K, as the Novice path no longer followed the Starter path.  K went over her fences and ended up in the "high meadow".  We came upon the ditch that I almost fell at 2 weekends ago at the clinic.  I figured I should jump it a few more times and really focus on keeping my heels down, cause if I have problems with my heels, I need to work on it.

I called over to K and her crew that I was going to go over the ditch and this time try not to fall off, you know like at the clinic.  Her dad asked if I wanted pictures and I said nah, I should be able to tell if my heels were down.  Mia and I trotted up to the ditch which, if you remember, is in a depression, there is a small hill going down to the ditch on both sides.  Mia got to the ditch and came to an abrupt stop!  Uh, what happened?  Mia refused?  I smacked her with the crop but didn't want her hopping over it from a standstill (since I didn't want to fall off) so I circled her around and tried again.  This time I kept my heels WAY down and leg way forward and she again came to a quick stop.  My core went forward due to the quick stop and then Mia backed up.  Completely unprepared, I did a quick somersault over her shoulder and hit the ground.  Yes, I fell off of my green horse for the very first time.

Thanks to my very bad habit of having the death grip on the reins when I fall off, Mia then proceeded to drag me about 10-15 feet up the hill and then a little further before she finally stopped.  By then everyone noticed something was amiss and said I then "hopped up like a spring chicken".  I wasn't hurt, I just hit my butt and damn it, I was pretty ticked and was GOING to make her go over the ditch!  Everyone meandered over and asked if I was ok as I got back on and then I proceeded to play my favorite game, Beat The Pony.  When Mia refused a third time, I smacked her with the crop until she jumped over the grass beside the ditch.  At least it was forward.  I kept smacking her when I represented the ditch again and she again jumped off to the side but at least she wasn't fully refusing.  And I was keeping my heels down :)  I represented a fifth time and I was able to get her over the actual ditch and by the sixth time she jumped it without needing a beating.  Progress!  Sheesh.  Thankfully it wasn't on my course on Sunday, I was just doing this to practice.

As K finished up her course, I picked Mia up into a canter and went over some starter and then BN jumps before starting the Novice fences again.  By the time I went over the next Novice fence, the XC machine was back and Mia didn't care any longer what we were jumping as long as we were jumping.  What I think happened is that she hadn't had enough of a warmup to have the XC machine confidence she needed yet.  When presented with an iffy situation, she just decided to say no because she doesn't realize yet that NO is not the right answer.  My hope is more experience will fix that.  We finished our entire XC course without any other issue, even over the stadium fences.

So me and my big mouth taunted Karma enough that I then had to fall off.  Thankfully my butt has enough padding that it doesn't hurt but when I laid down Sat night, I realized my shoulder hurts.  A fairly significant amount of hurt actually.  Being drug by my arm apparently isn't a good thing at my age.  I woke up nice and early on Sunday for my show and downed a couple of Aleve, it is show time!