Friday, May 30, 2014

Do What You Love

I went on a trail ride yesterday and it was so much fun! I love riding, that goes without saying and I love eventing a lot... but I think my first love will always be hitting the trail especially with a good friend. It is just so relaxing and fun at the same time. This particular friend and I haven't ridden together in nearly 20 years so it was even more special. We're hoping to go again tomorrow.

Yay for summer really and truly, finally being here!!

Have a good weekend!!

Getting tacked up. We both have bay geldings and like the color red. :)

On the trail.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

VCBH: Let's Make A Baby

Another fun blog hop brought to us by Viva Carlos!
This week's blog hop is..... If you could/were so inclined to breed your horse (1.. let's not get into the issues of backyard breeding and 2.. let's pretend your horse is a mare if it's not) WHO would you breed your horse to and Why!

Well, I really haven't studied much on breeding so this is just a guess on my part but if Loki were a Lok-aaa I would probably breed him errr her to North Forks Brenin Cardi. Standing at Winterlake Welsh Cob Farm.


 Why?
#1 My previous trainer just bought one of his babies and I highly respect her opinion.
#2 He is just my size at a little over 14.3 and hopefully the baby wouldn't be too much taller.
#3 He is put together really nicely and is a super mover and sounds like he has a pretty awesome personality to boot.

So there you have it. :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Awesomeness!

First of all I am sick and feel like donkey dung pretty much so I'm a bit behind in blogging. Hopefully the world will right itself again and I will be able to move on here soon!

But, this is too cool not to share no matter how cruddy I feel. Hopefully you can read it. I'm not sure how well it will turn out but the gist of it is we had a local reporter stop by the farm and interview us about FFI and what we do as well as take some photos. The reporter did a fantastic job! And we couldn't be more thrilled. We've definitely seen an increase in t-shirt sales as well as requests to volunteer, etc.


So there you have it. I wish I had the energy to make this post "prettier" but  I just don't. I'm going to go try and get rid of this stinkin' fever now! but please Enjoy!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's A Boy

A couple weeks ago while we were at the Thoroughbred show my trainer got a phone call from one of her boarders. The boarder had a mare who was in foal and they had transported the mare to the vet clinic to have her baby. Unfortunately at the clinic the mare ended up twisting her gut and needed emergency vet care that was above the clinic's means. The boarder was trying to find transportation to get the mare to the Ohio State vet clinic.

They did eventually get the mare to the clinic but I guess it was pretty touch and go for a while. Once the mare was stabilized they had a hard time finding the foal's heartbeat and for a while they weren't sure the foal made it.

Luckily this story has a happy ending and about six days later the foal made an appearance. A cute little quarter horse colt. Meet Jameson (I don't remember what his registered name is.)
Isn't he adorable? It's a lot of fun to have a baby around the farm. These boarders  have bred several successful reiners and sold one of their colts for big $$ to Germany (I think). It looks like Jameson will have a bright future. (The little blue you see by his leg is where he had to have some stitches because momma stepped on him in the trailer... poor guy had a rough start!)
Also Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Goals

After this past weekend I have come up with three very specific goals to work on. Sometimes I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what I need to work on other than to just work on everything and just be a better rider in general. So it is kind of nice to have some very specific things to work on.

So here they are:

Goal #1

In some ways this is not exactly a new goal but it is most definitely a goal that I need to renew until I get it down. The goal is to use more leg. It's pretty much as simple as that. In my last post I mentioned that Loki's issue isn't necessarily that he is going too fast it is that he is unbalanced. Not all the time but often. Because being unbalanced feels a lot like being too fast and being out of control my natural instinct is to grab the reins and say WHOA BUDDY! SLOW THE HECK DOWN!!! (Disclaimer - I'm really talking about when we are riding over fences not on the flat.) And, as often is the case with riding, natural instincts can lead you to all kinds of wrong. I need more leg! I need more leg! I need more leg! I feel like if I say it often enough maybe I will start to GET IT! I mean I do get it in my head but when I'm riding there is just a short circuit somewhere between my head and my legs. The message just isn't getting down there consistently. I'm starting to understand how easy it is to ride from front to back instead of back to front. I mean of course it is easy to say and understand that you should ride your horse from the back to the front but it is a hell of a lot harder to do when you feel like your flying around out of control and your entire body is screaming to JUST SLOW DOWN!! But, I have to overcome this instinct somehow if we are ever going to improve.

Goal #2

In looking at my recent jumping photos I am noticing a major flaw in my position. (I'm sure there is more than one but for right now I'm focusing on this one.) That is, I don't fold over the jump, like ever. I have learned to jump very defensively which can certainly come in handy but when jumping a course with combinations and quick turns it can really get you into trouble. When I don't fold and follow Loki with my hands one of two things happen either a) I get pulled forward anyways, which means that my whole body comes forward and my center of gravity is pulled forward or b) I let the reins slip. This isn't always a bad thing, out on the XC course it can be very handy but if you do that during, say a 2-stride combination such as the one that we had the run out on, then you're going to have a tough time riding your horse through the combination... hmmmmmm. So anyways, I've got to learn to start folding, keeping my rear end and center of gravity firmly towards the back of the saddle while my arms and upper body go forward to follow the motion of the jump. I know I am capable of doing it. When I ride at home and I'm not nervous/stressed I do get pictures where I am following and it definitely makes for prettier pictures. So now I just need to get myself to do it even when I'm nervous/stressed. 

The above photo is a good example of when I get pulled forward instead of folding to follow the motion of the jump. Granted you don't need to fold much over this little cross rail but when I resist bending my entire body gets pulled forward and my hands end up braced on Loki's neck.
And here is an example of me letting the reins slip. (I do have to add that Goal #1 will help Goal #2 immensely. It's super hard to follow your horse when it feels like they are going to bury themselves in the ground!)
Right afterwards you can see just how long my reins are. If this had been a combination I would have been very hard pressed to keep us together. Sometimes letting the reins slip is very useful but I need to be able to do both no matter how nervous I am.

Goal #3

This is actually my favorite goal but also the one that will be the hardest. It is inspired by this picture of our FFI intern riding one of our FFI horses at both of their first event. 
Can you guess what my goal is based on the picture?

If you guessed SMILE MORE then congratulations you are absolutely correct. Oh my gosh I just love this picture. Both the rider and the mare were totally new to eventing and they had a less than perfect stadium round but look at them. They look like they are having the time of their lives! It makes me realize that THIS is what it should be all about. So my biggest goal is to make a conscious effort to smile more even while I'm riding even if things aren't going the way I want them to. Just smile dang it!
I am actually capable of smiling. I just have to think about it. In pretty much all of my riding pictures I have some sort of grimace on my face. Most of the time I am biting my lower lip which has become a habit. It makes me look like an old person who misplaced her dentures! That needs to stop!

So after not so much deliberation I sent my entry in for Midsouth Pony Club Rally. Am I insane to want to do this again? I'm honestly not sure. I'm hoping that now that we've got the first event over with I will be able to ride better. Having these goals to work on will also hopefully help. As well we are going to be trying some other bit combinations for XC so that we don't have to spend so much time fighting out on course and so that I can have the confidence to just let Loki be in between fences and know that when I ask him to come back I will get a response. We have about three weeks to get our act together. I hope we can do it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Greater Dayton Recap Day 2

Holy Cow it is XC Day!!!

That was pretty much my feeling when I woke up on Sunday. I'm not entirely sure if it was excitement or terror because sometimes those feelings can be hard to distinguish from each other!

We didn't ride until a little after 1:00 so I actually slept in and got to the barn around 9:30. I took my time getting Loki cleaned up and making sure I still had everything ready to go. My husband came with me and helped me load and helped me to stay calm.

By the time we got back to the show grounds we didn't have to sit around long. I checked out pictures in the photographer's tent. There were a couple of really funny ones from my trainer and another friend and I wasn't too disappointed in mine which is always a plus. I totally meant to go back and order a couple because they always have show day specials but totally forgot. So now I have to wait until they are up on the website. Oh well.

After that I got myself and Loki ready and we headed on out to warm up. Right away Loki was SUPER heavy and I realized it was because he was pretty darn tired. We've had a really busy couple of weeks. At first our warm up was pretty rough and then my trainer had me do some trot-halt-trots and then canter-halt-canters until we were able to find a balanced canter. It really helped!

And before I knew it it was time to head out on course! And here some silliness ensues!

So right before I went to the start box I was sitting by warm-up and there is a part of the course you can watch. There was another rider from my division coming through and this particular rider happened to be very scary to watch, like literally waiting for the train wreck. The horse was pretty much out of control and they were careening around the course and the rider was yelling so loudly we could hear it from quite a distance away. At first I thought the yelling was something along the lines of whoa, stop, help as if the horse was running away and the rider was yelling for help but they kept going so I'm not sure. We even watched as they had a run out at a fence and circled back to jump it. I mean just the circling back was done at mach 10! (Update: I don't tell this story to judge the rider. The horse looked very difficult to ride and I'm sure they were doing the best they could.)

I mention it to sort of give you an idea of what was going through my head as I headed out on XC. Pretty much it was me being terrified that I would completely loose control of Loki and careen around the course at mach 10 scaring us both and the people watching. And to be sure there have certainly been moments in the past where Loki was not completely under my control. Basically I just freaked myself out.

The result was we had the absolutely SLOWEST XC round of the day, LOL! Looking back on it and it actually makes me giggle a little because I absolutely hauled Loki in and we fought through most of the course and in my head we were careening around like the horse and rider I had just watched when in reality I now realize we were actually going kind of (really) slow! The reason it felt so fast, in my defense, was that Loki was running pretty flat which is the most comfortable and least energy draining way for him to run. I wanted him to be nice and round the entire course and that is not fair nor realistic. They can't run an entire XC course in a super pretty dressage canter! Plus Loki was already tired and he was really trying to get me to carry him the entire way and since I was terrified we were going way too fast I totally fell for it. To clarify, we did have some moments where Loki did get too fast usually right after a jump and it would take me about five or six strides to get him reeled back in but what I really needed to do was ADD MORE LEG to get him balanced and not worry about how fast he was going. His speed isn't the issue it is his balance and I'm slowly starting to get it.

So anyways, the first three jumps didn't ride super well but then we hit a slightly uphill part of the course and that really helped us get it back together. By the end of the course we had some really lovely jumps and there was one jump in particular that rode so well that I thought THIS this is what XC is supposed to feel like.

Never once was there any indication that Loki was going to run out. He ATTACKED the course which was a really awesome feeling now that I can think about it without being pumped up on adrenaline. I also realized afterwards that it has been nearly 4 years since I've ridden a XC course. I've done lots of schooling but that is totally different than actually being out on course so it makes sense that I was having a serious attack of nerves. I really do think it will be better next time.

Well, I tried to keep this as short as possible. I learned so much at this event and I will definitely be writing about that in my next post. But, for now here are some photos of our illustrious first ever XC course. :)

(Oh and by the way we ended up with 28 time penalties... like I said we were going slllllllllowwww!)

XC Warmup
In the start box
We shall proceed with caution at the trot
Our very first XC jump on our very first XC course!
jump 2
One of the only times I lost my lower leg at this jump which was slightly downhill.
One of our little jumps
I'm pretty sure his ears were pricked forward the entire ride.
We finished!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Greater Dayton Recap Day 1

So... Greater Dayton... our first ever sanctioned event... how did it go? I was planning to write about the experience all in one post but realized it was going to be way too long so I'll recap the first day today and the second day tomorrow. (Still way too long - Sorry!) But let me start with...

The Weather:

Apparently the polar vortex isn't quite done with us yet. It's no longer "polar" weather but it is still seriously making it chillier than normal. After a few weeks of weather in the 70s and 80s Saturday dawned nice and chilly at around 36˚. As we pulled into the park the clouds were ominously dark and sure enough just as we were saddling up it started to rain. But not just rain, mind you, it took me a sec to figure out why the rain was actually cold and OUCH! why is it hurting me? Oh because it is sleet/hailing. The sleet/hail didn't last too long thankfully but the rain stuck around for quite a while and by the time I went into my dressage test I was pretty darn cold although, my top half was pretty dry thanks to my see through fitted (child's size) rain jacket and waterproof helmet cover. 

That leads to...

Dressage:

Dressage was so-so. Not as nice as we had at the KHP two weekends before but not too shabby especially considering the less than ideal conditions. I really only had one major problem I could not for the life of me keep a good hold of my reins. Apparently wet gloves and wet reins, even rubber reins, get very slick. So that made our downward transitions and one of our canter circles a bit sticky. In fact Loki blew past my halt at X and we ended up stopping somewhere between X and G but dang-it my reins would not stay put in my hands so every time I went to ask for a downward transition I literally had to reel my reins back in! (Although the judge did remark that the halt was nice and square and straight so that is a plus!) 

Overall our score was a 37 to sit in third and only about 2 points or less than first place which was a pretty cool feeling. We had a few more fives than last time but also a few more sevens. The best thing was that for the first time ever I got a 7 on rider position and seat and correctness/effectiveness of aids. Holy cow!! I've never gotten above a 6 before and have been scored a 5 more times than I like so that was very exciting. The judge didn't leave any comments in that section, though. I felt like our score was pretty fair at least in my limited experience. Greater Dayton is a pretty darn small horse trial so the competition isn't quite as fierce as it will be in other places (I think) so our 3rd place is not something I expect to happen often or again at least in the near future but the cool thing is I feel like Loki really does have the inherit ability to win the dressage. We are so definitely not there yet but with more years of training he could do really well. He's not a 10 mover or anything but I bet he's a solid 7 maybe even an 8 when I can get him to really use himself. 

Anyways, that was dressage. There was one casualty my pair of white dressage breeches. I'm pretty sure they will never be white again. My saddle bleeds when it gets wet. I'm assuming this is simply because it is not the most expensively made saddle on the planet. Does anyone else's saddle(s) bleed when it gets wet? Just one more reason to be super excited for my new saddle!

Stadium

I was really nervous about stadium. We had a good three hours between dressage and stadium so I did get to relax for a little bit. I watched my trainer's jumping rounds and a few others. My sister and I walked my XC course and we got a bite to eat. The sun actually even came out... for a while.

Finally it was time to get ready for stadium (oh and it started raining again of course!) and I definitely had that heart in your throat feeling. It's funny, though, because even though I was as nervous as I've ever been for any event my reason for being nervous was entirely different. When I first started eventing it was all about the jumps and they looked so big and scary! But now it was all about can I get my horse around these jumps? How will he behave, will I ride like a complete moron? The jumps themselves honestly no longer intimidate me (much) but whether or not I could pilot my horse effectively that was very intimidating!

Anyways, I would give our stadium round a slightly above 50% if I were grading it. We had 9 jumping efforts with jump 5 being a 2 stride combination. Of those jumping efforts I would say 5 of them rode pretty well. I felt like we were mostly in sync over those five jumps. Jump 6 and 8 were both heading towards the trailer and "home" as Loki saw it so both of those jumps he got very flat and a bit quick and honestly while I didn't think he'd refuse I wasn't sure if we were going to go over the jump or simply obliterate it but thankfully we made it over. (I MUST REMEMBER TO ADD LEG!!! WHEN THIS HAPPENS--more on that later.) And, unfortunately, we did have one run out at the b element of jump 5. I really blame this on myself as I got us to the a element crooked to start with and I never got my eye up and on the b element nor was I anywhere near keeping us together between a and b. So, Loki saw the open door and took it. Now, my trainer will tell me that it really doesn't matter if it is my fault or his he is an event horse and he has a job to do and part of that job is covering my rear when I make mistakes. While that is true we are both still pretty green so I just gave him a little kick, we circled and he went right over it very nicely the second time. Sadly, that cost us 4 jump and 18 time penalties and we went all the way from 3rd to last place. Oh well, lol!

This post is already way too long so I'll end here but leave you with a few pictures of our little (mis?)adventure. No dressage pictures this time as my husband didn't make it out until much later in the day. I may get some later when the official photographer posts them in a week or two. 

Warming up for stadium
Waiting our turn
First jump of the course, I'm actually managing to look where I want to go.
While I really wish my position were better Loki looks super cute.
The second attempt of the fence we had the run out on.
All business
Fence 6 was zoom zoom and quite ugly!

Stay tuned for XC recap tomorrow. :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Blog Hop: Why Do You Ride

From Viva Carlos:

...with all the ups and downs experienced in riding, the expense, the pressure, the stress horses being giant and yet fragile. Some of us are sidelined due to physical conditions, horse injuries, finances or even a lack of an equid to throw a leg over, Why do you continue to ride? 

This is a great blog hop. There are so many reasons to stop riding the biggest being the expense and time suck. I have certainly contemplated what my life would be like if I could just give up the horses... I would definitely travel more. I'd have more time and money to do things with my family. I would feel a lot less guilty.

There have been a few extended periods of time when I've been forced to be horseless, when we were living in Japan, when we first joined the Army and were studying in California and for a short time in college. I can tell you that each of those times have been among some of the hardest for me and I do think that not having my equine outlet had some part in it.

The truth is horses are so much a part of my life that it is hard to imagine my life without them. For as long as I can remember I begged/wished/hoped and dreamed about having my own horse. I saved babysitting money to go ride at the local horse rental place and made lists of names for my future horse.


Dusty, my very first lesson pony.
Kharisma, another lesson horse that taught me so much.
Once I finally did get my own horse it truly was a dream come true.
Zelly and I at a CTR. I'm not sure my smile gets much bigger than that.
I pretty much love everything about horses. They are the most beautiful creatures on earth in my opinion. I love just being around them. I still get excited when I pass horse trailers on the road or when I see random horses in pastures. I love riding them. I love the hard work and the relationship building. I love long, quiet trail rides and time spent sweating to get better transitions or the perfect halt. I just love all of it.

I love those quiet moments when I'm grooming or cleaning a stall. I love the feel of their warm skin under my fingers. I love brushing their manes and tails and picking out their hooves.
I love those few times when I get something just right, find the perfect distance to a jump, ride a great dressage test or get my horse to pass something scary on the trail because they've learned to trust me.
And even when I have rides like this past Sunday where things don't go the way I'd like or when I watch videos and see so many mistakes and things I need to get better at I still love it. I might get discouraged and there might come a time when I give up certain aspects of riding such as competing or jumping but I just don't see how I could give up horses all together. If that time ever does come it would be a huge sacrifice on my part or it would mean that I somehow fundamentally changed from who I am right at this moment. I hope and pray that I never have to face that circumstance. Horses are like air to me; necessary.

On another quick note here is a short video from when I was trying saddles on Monday. You can tell that the saddle doesn't fit me or Loki very well but I wanted to share the video so that I could remind myself that not all of our rides are like the one on Sunday. Loki and I are capable of jumping normally. There is still a ton of stuff to work on but I have to keep my head in the game and continue to work at it. #1 on my list is to work on being a quieter rider!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joe Meyer Day 2

This post could also have the title "Loki Acts Like A Jerkface."

I was very excited for Day 2 with Joe Meyer. Day 1 had gone so well that I was hoping we'd do some more challenging stuff. Also, my husband made it out to play photographer so definitely a win.

Well, Loki had other plans for the evening. In hindsight I think he was just pissed because we rode at 5 in the evening which is right around feed time. I never ride that late. We did grain him an hour early but Loki is the kind of horse who easily gets very set in his ways. He doesn't do so great with change. This is the excuse I'm giving him anyways.

He came out and right away I could tell he was not going to be super cooperative. Where his walk had been nice and soft the day before it was now rushed and very heavy no matter how much leg and lift I tried to apply. To anyone who didn't know better he probably didn't look so bad while we were flatting but I could definitely feel it.

When it came to jumping he was just meh. He wasn't horrible at first, although he did stop at our first fence which is totally ridiculous, he's only jumped it about a thousand times but whatever. After that he was okay but just really flat and heavy.

Then at the very end when we were putting our course together the heavens let loose. I decided to go ahead and finish our course in the rain and Loki threw a HUGE tantrum. Refusing to jump three times and rushing and just all kinds of crazy. I did eventually get him through the course one time decently but it was basically the complete opposite of the day before.

I was somewhat glad it happened, though, so that Joe could see some of the issues we face at shows. This was by far the worse he's ever been but still it gave him some ideas to help me. Once again straightness is my friend, widening my hands to get him straight to the fence helps him and me to focus much better. And stay tall especially before the fence. This is just a HUGE challenge for me. Joe suggested I attend some pilates classes to strengthen my core.

I did get some pictures but these are some of the worst jumping pictures I have of us thus far and I weeded them heavily at that. A couple are okay, not great but okay like these:
But Loki consistently hung his knees the entire lesson. I don't have one picture where his knees are really up where they should be. Part of that is because he has 0 respect for these small fences. (The few times he refused had absolutely NOTHING to do with the jump it was simply his way of giving me the horsey finger.) The other reason is because every time we got within a stride or two from the base of the jump he would pull me down like a freight train, hence my need to sit "tall" when we jump. You can see it in the following sequence of photos:
My shoulders are mostly open and back here
Now my shoulders are closed and I'm starting to fall forward
Now I'm really collapsed forward and Loki looks like he is doing a rail inspection
All of that leads to this very awkward photo
A split second later and we look... somewhat okay again.
It's easy to get a bit discouraged after rides like this. I can't help but fear that we might not be able to get past this. But, the next day I had the saddle fitter out and I rode him around in four different saddles and jumped and he was right back to being, mostly a gentleman. So, we'll just chalk this one up to a bad mood and a bad day and move on. Our first event is only a few days away and I need to focus on getting the job done.

My plan for jumping and cross country is to start our warm up by walking him around in hand and making sure he is paying attention to me and not everything going on around us. That was a strategy I used for a combined test last year and it really seemed to help. Once in the saddle my plan is to once again make sure he is really listening to me before we do anything else especially before we start jumping. When we are on the same page we jump great we just sometimes have a hard time getting there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Joe Meyer Day 1

First of all thanks for all the congrats about my saddle news. I am still so very, very excited. The estimate for it to arrive is anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. I'm hoping for 3 but expecting 6. Either way it should be here sometime in June which still leaves plenty of summer to break it in.

On to the clinic:

Saturday I rode at 2:00 and it rained all morning. It was still raining close to 1:00 and I wasn't sure if we would be able to ride outside or not. Riding inside meant no jumping which would have been okay but luckily the rain stopped right around 1:00 and the sun came out and other than everything being a little wet it was pretty nice out.

This is my first time riding in a clinic or taking a lesson from anyone beside my trainer in well over a year or so. I was surprisingly very nervous once I got down to the arena. There were quite a few people sitting around to watch. But, once we got going my nerves calmed down.

Day 1 Loki came out super relaxed and pleasant. My trainer rode him the day before as I was out of town and I could tell a difference. He was just softer over all.

I wouldn't say there was anything magical in the lesson but I did learn a few things. The #1 thing I heard was sit tall and "lift" to slow down stride by stride. The #2 thing I heard was get Loki to the jump straight. Every time we got to the jump crooked we got a crappy distance which pretty much guaranteed a crappy jump. Every time we got to the jump straight we got a much nicer distance and a better jump.

I didn't have a photographer for day one but I did give my phone to someone and asked them to try and get some videos/pictures. Sadly none of the photos really turned out very well but I did get one somewhat decent video. (Sorry it is vertical... that drives me nuts but it is was it is.)

This was just our warm-up fence. Afterwards we went on to put a few fences together throwing in some figure 8's etc. Overall it was a very productive lesson. I was super tired at the end!

Just finished up day 1; tired and happy.
I do have an upcoming post on our bridle and new brow band. I'll get to it as soon as I can!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Get Excited!

I have to share some news that has got me jumping up and down!!!

I ordered... a saddle today!!! (I'm pretty sure you can hear me squealing from wherever you are!)

This is a combination birthday, Christmas and anniversary present all rolled up into one and that might be more than one birthday, Christmas and anniversary at that! but totally worth it.

The deets:

Black Country Tex Eventer with brown buffalo and red piping. That probably sounds weird but the shade of brown and red actually worked very well together and the red is dark and matte so not in your face red. :)
It isn't the saddle that I thought I was going to get. I really, really wanted the Vinici Tex Eventer monoflap but after riding in three different saddles I actually rode the best in this one. The monoflap I did ride in was pretty big for me so it's possible this would have been okay as a monoflap but we decided not to chance it. And it is nearly $700 less expensive for essentially the same saddle. So again, I am SO. DARN. EXCITED!!

I will try to post about the Joe Meyer clinic tomorrow. May is an extremely busy month. Greater Dayton is this weekend and it keeps getting closer and closer, eek!