Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I'm lucky and I know it

Our state has implemented even more restrictions and extended the lockdown, which has made things even more difficult. Masks are now required in business, lockdowns until mid May, life essential business only, it is some weird times indeed. It has affected the barn even further, which I keep reminding myself that while incredibly inconvenient, I am still lucky.

The majority of the boarding barns in our area are closed to non-essential personnel. If you don't work there or are an essential medical provider, you don't get in. Farriers and vets are the only people allowed at most barns, and some barns are not even allowing farriers. Yowsers. Our barn is small, with only about a dozen boarders. While things are very strained, they haven't shut the barn down. At the last update, we were allotted time slots and you could only go to the barn in those slots. My slot was 6p to 9p, because I still work an 8-5 during the week. Only 2 boarders are allowed to be at the barn in any assigned time slot.

After the mask restriction was put into place, the barn tightened the times even further. The barn is now shut until 11a, closes again at 3p and stays closed until 530p. Our assigned time slot went from 3 hours to 2 hours. My time slot is now 7p to 9p. At least I can still go 7 days a week if I desired, even if the times are far from ideal. I read blogs and FB posts from others whose barns have shut down completely and every time I feel unhappy with my time slot, I think of those people who can't see their horse.

Life at the barn is continuing on, you don't have to wear a mask while riding if you ride outside or if you are alone in the indoor. And while it gets dark at 8p and I don't get there until 7p, if Mia isn't dirty then I can have at least 30-40 mins to ride outside. And as long as I don't mind riding in fairly dark twilight, I can ride as long as I want outside. It is also helpful that it is getting lighter later every day, even if spring is being psycho about the weather. Warm, cold. Sun, snow. Calm, 50mph winds. Make up your mind already!

The drive to "get better" isn't as strong as I would like, but I realize the quarantine is affecting everyone differently. Mine is apparently taking away some of the drive and replacing with a decent amount of blah. We have had some decent dressage rides. 2 weeks ago I had what felt like an AMAZING ride. Mia was soft, responsive, and easy to ride in dressage. When I watched video later, I saw that was because Mia had faked me out. My reins were WAY too long, she was totally haunches in during the right lead canter, and she was plugging away on the forehand.

Our next few rides were much harder, but I stepped up and held her accountable anyway. While the ride wasn't as amazing, I think we rode much better. I made myself make her be accountable and some of the results were definitely showing. We have done several rides outside, including some fitness, to avoid riding with others. We had a trail ride where I rode bareback in a halter and Mia was foot perfect. We had a trail ride where I just let her walk with loose reins and closed eyes as I tried to focus on what exactly was bugging me. We did some w/t/c rides in the front field, where the canter became nonstop leg yields left and right. If Mia is showing ill effects from the shutdown, she isn't showing it! She is such a good mare.

Here's to hoping things clear up and life can resume safely. If nothing else, we will be super ready for shows next year!

Monday, April 13, 2020

How to fill our time?

With the lockdown starting on March 6, I tried to avoid people. On March 14 and 21, I went to the barn at 4p because normally everyone is gone. The barn was packed on both weekends, as everyone was using it as a way to get out of the house. I went on trail rides with the ladies each time, but made comments about how I didn't expect people to STILL be at the barn that late.

Where did the silly hoomans go?
The weeknights were not much better, with people who are not the normal "night crew" being at the barn when I got there at 630p. I avoided the barn on the weekend of March 28 as I seemed to be the only one taking the "self quarantine" serious, which was a good idea because apparently the barn was packed again. Finally there was an issue at the barn and they implemented a pseudo lockdown. Most barns in our area are closed to boarders, however our barn is trying not to do this and offered this option first. Only 2 boarders at a time are allowed out within an assigned 3 hour time slot. My time slot is from 6p to 9p. It sucks on the weekends, but works on the weekdays so whatever.

Pic from Dec
The farrier was allowed out at least, though we had to trim in the driveway. We have been warned that if anyone abuses the time slots or cannot play by the rules, the barn will close indefinitely. While it really sucked on Saturday after the farrier as wasn't allowed to go on a trail ride by myself when we were done, I understand. I was there outside of my time slot. 

Pic from March. I see muscles! 
I am slowly getting my drive back and am looking forward to being ready to kick ass when we get to the other side of this. It started raining again so I can't go XC jumping at the barn but I plan on setting up some jumps in the arena and working on some fitness, height and repetition. Before the shutdown, we were already at a solid 5 min canter and two point set. I know I can get that back in no time. 

Work in progress, no need to be green!
I also took the opportunity to clean and service my horse trailer. The poor thing hadn't been washed last year and had become legit green on the back doors. Definitely not the image I want for our show season this year!

I'm ready to get back to my goals and really get stuff accomplished. Covid may be cancelling everything, and maybe I won't get a show until July, but we'll be ready when it finally happens! 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lesson 8 and 9 - before the world spun into chaos

I had a bunch of words typed out, but they were all no longer applicable. Talking about our show plans, what we were working on for our April 19 show, and our plan of attack to kick ass doesn't apply anymore. And then the world fell apart with Covid and quarantine. So....updates?

When we left you last, Mia was lame. After a week of rest, the farrier was out and didn't see anything despite my waffling on if I DID see her being lame or not. So we went with the "ride it until it is good or breaks" mentality and Mia has stayed sound. We did a short week of fitness before we had lesson 8.

Lesson 8 was very good! We were really focusing on power and control and that carried over into our first jump lesson with A. I warned A before the ride that I had have had tons of jump lessons and I haven't had one that was worth the $ since the early 2000's. I always fell like I have a babysitter and am simply paying a jump crew. I told her that I was really looking forward to A's lesson bc her dressage rides are SO informative. She took that as a challenge, set up a grid and worked us! It started as a small one stride to a two stride to a 3 stride.

A has changed so much about our rides in dressage, it was no surprise that she changed our jumping. I ride 90% in two point when jumping. I drive with my seat at some of the bigger jumps, but otherwise I am in two point all of the time. Freedom of movement for the horse, she can balance herself at all times, I am not in the way. A wants me to sit the canter more, 50% of the time at least. Her argument was that I can't control Mia's tempo with my seat bones if they are out of the saddle, I would have to rely only on my hands and/or weight/balance. It should easier to simply use the skills from dressage to control her canter when approaching her jump bc that is what we have been working on. Anytime I am near/can see a jump, I should be sitting down to control Mia's tempo. Makes sense, but it was SUPER hard for me to do. Fighting muscle memory is legit hard!

The jumps stayed small, nothing over 2'9", and the two stride was taken out so we could work on pacing. We worked to get Mia's canter size changed between the jumps WHILE I am sitting down between the jumps. While it wasn't a perfect lesson (I blame the severe rust on our skills), it was definitely worth the money and I am now looking forward to taking another jump lesson!

Lesson 9 was a dressage ride and it was a much more laid back ride than normal. We really focused on getting power, straightness, and getting it faster and with less fuss. We discovered one of my habits of throwing my connection away during a down transition has come back so I have to focus on not doing that. We also worked on a cool "butterfly" exercise that I have done a couple of times since. We ride the centerline and turn to the rail, do (something), turn up centerline 1/2 to 3/4 down the arena and ride back up the centerline doing (something), turn back to the rail and continue.

Sounds easy enough, right? I thought so too, until we are doing things like lengthened trot on those straight sides. Or leg yields, counter canter, haunches out/in, collected trot, collected/lengthened canter, etc. When you only have about 25m to do the movement before getting control back to make the 10m circle, it gets interesting and difficult fast! We can only fit about a stride and a half of lengthened canter before we are pulling back up, but actually getting it and getting it back is a great accomplishment.

We were already under a stay-at-home and social distance order for lesson 9 on March 10. On March 13, all non essential business was shut down and all lessons were cancelled. Then all shows were cancelled. Then only life essential businesses were allowed to be open. *sigh* You know. You are in it with me.

It took me several weeks to get back to riding with purpose again, as I went through a mini depressive state. I think everyone did. Since then I have done some fitness rides and I jumped some of the XC jumps! We didn't jump any of the biggest ones, but we jumped all but 5 of the XC jumps at the farm. Mia was fabulous, as expected, and seemed to really enjoy the change of pace. Our last dressage ride on Monday made me super happy. Mia didn't fight, she changed her gait speeds via my seat, she picked up/dropped gaits via my seat, and felt straight in her canter in both directions. If the ONLY thing we accomplish this year is having a dressage test that doesn't say "haunches in" under the canter section, I am going to be so proud.