Friday, October 21, 2016

The Weekly Routine

Everyone else seems to have done this, so why not. I'll do it too. It makes me sad though... I realize how much time I waste dwaddling in the evening (and it's mostly because I'm tired or want to be social at the barn), but then it doesn't help my overall tiredness so I'm continuously feeling rundown.

I wish I slept as soundly as Sophie (or got as much sleep as she does!).
She's such a sound sleeper that you can mush her face around... and it stays how it's been mushed!

I don't usually go to the barn Monday or Friday, so the days are pretty easy.

5:50 - Wake up
6:15 - Finally get out of bed and get ready to go to work
6:50 - Get in the car and drive to the bus stop (this sometimes doesn't happen until 6:55, oops)
7:05 - Get in line for the bus (gotta be near the front of the line so I get a seat cause standing is no fun)
7:10ish - The bus shows up (this kind of happens whenever it wants to around this time)
8:00 - Sit down at my desk
Breakfast and lunch happen at work (I can't eat breakfast then ride the bus)
4:30 - Peace out yo!
4:35ish - The bus decides to show up (4:45 on bad days)
5:20ish - Get back to my car and go home (or run errands)
5:35ish - Home! Make dinner, do things that I don't usually have time to do (pay attention/talk to Husband), clean, etc. Shower before bed.
11:00 - Bedtime

Mondays and Fridays are usually non-horsey because I've been horsed out by those days.
Definitely was horsed out by the end of Championships.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are barn evenings!

5:50 - Wake up
6:15 - Finally get out of bed and get ready to go to work
6:50 - Get in the car and drive to the bus stop
7:05 - Get in line for the bus
7:10ish - The bus shows up
8:00 - Sit down at my desk
Breakfast and lunch happen at work
4:30 - Peace out yo!
4:35ish - The bus decides to show up
5:20ish - Get back to my car and go to the barn
5:55 - Arrive at the barn, change clothes and water down alfalfa cubes
6:05 - Have Penn in his stall munching alfalfa.
6:15 - After getting stuff out and probably talking to someone, groom the nomming horse.
6:35 - Put Penn in crossties and tack up
6:45 - Ride
7:30 - Back to the crossties to untack and put the horse away
(depending on how sweaty/gross Penn is and the temp, Penn gets brushed down or a bath. Horse put away time varies a lot based on those things and if Penn is going back outside after dinner)
8:00 - Put stuff away, chat with people.
8:30ish - Go home
9:15ish - Arrive at home, put in a load of laundry if needed, and take a shower because I'm usually pretty gross. Showering while tired is my worst enemy. I'm usually pretty tired by this point in the day and I move pretty slow because I enjoy just standing in the hot water.
10:15 to 11:30 - Decompress time/pass out in the living room because I'm too tired. Get back up and put lunch together for the next day, deal with any laundry in the washer, generally crawl around the house trying to organize for the next day.
11:30 to Midnight- Bedtime

If I haul during the week, I usually do it Wednesday. Like I did for the obstacle trail thing!

Wednesdays have an interesting twist- I generally work at home once a week and my usual day is Wednesday. This is the day of the week that I sleep in! Strangely, in recent months I have yet to leave work on time (aka sign out) and I usually spend an extra 10-20 min working past 4:30.

7:40 - Wake up
7:55 - Crawl out of bed and get the laptop out and running and set up in the office for the day.
8:00 - Log in remotely to work.
Breakfast and lunch happen at some point in the morning and then afternoon.
4:30 - Peace out yo!
4:45 - Ok, really peace out.
5:00 - F this all, put on barn clothes, get in my car and go to the barn
5:45 - Arrive at the barn, water down alfalfa cubes
6:00 - Have Penn in his stall munching alfalfa.
6:15 - After getting stuff out and probably talking to someone, groom the nomming horse.
6:35 - Put Penn in crossties and tack up
6:45 - Ride
7:30 - Back to the crossties to untack and put the horse away
8:00 - Put stuff away, chat with people.
8:30ish - Go home
9:15ish - Arrive at home and take a shower because I'm usually pretty gross, and again it takes time becase I'm tired.
10:15 to 11:00 - Decompress time. There usually isn't much to organize for the next day since I've been home all day, but Wednesday night is Garbage Night and Husband and I tackle that task together (collect bags from the kitchen and bathrooms, throw out bad food, dump and refill litter boxes etc).
11:00 to 11:30- Bedtime

By the end of the week I feel a little derpy too.

Weeknight barn days usually end up going a lot longer than this schedule suggests... I get hung up at work and don't leave on time sometimes, or I clean tack after riding if it's really dirty, or just get caught up in the "time warp" of the barn. Hell, I didn't leave the barn Wednesday until 9:30 because the farrier was out to shoe Penn and I shaved his whites again, so I didn't get on to ride until 7:45 and then it just took forever to get things done. Tuesdays and Thursdays are hard for me- I'm usually out of the house doing things for 13-15 hours after dedicating an hour to getting out of the house... which means my last 8 hours of the day need to handle anything else I need to do (shower, organize for the next day) and I want to decompress, not immediately go to bed, so I dig into those 8 hours kind of quickly and miss out on sleep. I don't mean to whine or complain, I do this to myself, but I'm tired.

Weeknight barn nights are also tough for dinner- I try to bring something to eat in the car on the way home, but sometimes I just fail and get Sheetz for dinner because I love Sheetz and there is a convenient drive thru on my way home. #fail

Glutton for punishment: two horses and all their gear (plus a 3rd horse's stuff), about to walk down to SJ warm up.

So guess what? I work some more on the weekend, but not a crazy number of hours... it's more the idea of "I already did 37.5 hours (plus 3-7 additional hours which has been the case for the last few months) of work this week, so let's wake up and do 6 more!"

7:00 - Wake up
7:15 - Get out of bed and ready to go to my fun job!
7:30 - Leave for the barn
7:45 - Stop at Sheetz drive thru for breakfast. Sometimes I get a sub to have for lunch on my way home from the barn.
8:30 - Arrive at the barn to clean stalls and feed and shuffle horses as per the weather and time of year.
11:30 - Stop working (I only do 3 hours each morning- when the horses are on night turnout I usually get everything done - feed/horse shuffling, stalls, blow out the barn - but when they're on day turnout I usually only get through 1/2 to 3/4 of the stalls)
11:30 to 1:30 - get Penn, feed him alfalfa, groom, tack up, ride, put horse away. Sometimes this goes on until 2 or 2:30 if I'm talking to someone.
By 2:30- GO HOME. I'm usually much faster about barn stuff on the weekend because by the time I get to fetch Penn to ride, I've been barning for 3 hours and usually have some kind of pressing thing I need to go do (like go to Tractor Supply or the grocery store). I'm super quick when I don't see anyone at the barn- I can be driving out by 1!
3:30 - I'm home by this point if I didn't need to run errands, so immediate shower and usually a nap.
5:30 to 11:00 - Cook dinner, spend time with Husband, clean the house/kitchen, use the interwebz, etc.
By 11:00 - Bedtime. Saturdays are usually the only day I go to bed before Husband. He does long projects on the weekends and sometimes is up past midnight working on them.

I try not to let the shit hit the fan.

Of course the days have random things tossed in. Over the summer, Trainer taught every other Tuesday night. As we get into fall and winter, she'll teach every other Saturday. When there are lessons, there are more people to talk to (plus lessons to watch), so I end up spending more time at the barn. The farrier comes out on weeknights, so those nights are usually quite late for me because I rarely come out just to hold the horse; I'll ride too (a 40-45 min drive that's 25 miles one way does that).

You can probably tell that I don't go out and do things other than horsey things... well that's because: a) it's usually expensive to do fun things and I'm already working both days on the weekend to work off some of my board so I can afford to horse show because my job does not pay OT, b) I'm usually so booked up that I don't want to do anything else, or it's hard for me to make the time. The BOs are great about being flexible on the weekends since I'm there both days, so I can skip a day and go do things like horse shows, road rallies, family functions, etc.

All this because I've made riding my #1 priority in life (Husband may not be happy about this statement).

And that's ok cause I get to spend a lot of time with this handsome face!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Oh, Oh it's Magic!

In my last lesson, I was really struggling with the concept of half pass. I've always struggled with it. It was not Mikey and my strong suit- I always pushed the haunches to leading. With Penn, I'm lucky if they catch up! They trail like none other.

Look! I did something not horsey!
Husband enjoys road rallies that have "clues" for the directions. (so do I)
We did one on Saturday and won! (well we tied for first but the other car had 4 people in it which isn't fair when you're looking for things like: "Make the next turn to the opposite side of the road as an upside down boat")


Sunday was quiet at the barn and I was able to ride by myself inside (it suddenly became 80 degrees and sunny and HUMID again, wtf?!), so I spent a while working on half pass in walk. Breaking it down into what I was doing. If you recall, a couple lessons ago when Penn proved to be quite the flying change machine, Trainer got after me about shoving with my left seatbone to make Penn change bend to the right (it doesn't work yo) when we were doing simple changes on the circle between canter/counter canter. I took a look at how I was asking for half pass right... and OMG, guess what I was doing? Shoving him right with my left seatbone, then laying into him with my left leg because he wasn't going right or bending right. Major 'durrrrrrrr' moment.

I did some contorting (because I am unable to put my right seatbone on it seems): turn my body right, let my left leg go back, raise my right heel to engage my right seatbone, collapse my right rib cage and be a twisted mess. Then I tried again. Who knew Penn wanted to do the right thing after all? He was all, "ohhh thank goodness" and "oh, you should have just said that's what you wanted" etc. *facepalm* Now to do it without the the contorting!

We finished with some simple canter work on a circle, but he got a bit looky at that point so, I donno. I was still happy with him though. He does want to please, I just have to make sure I ask correctly!

He got a vetrolin bath and turned back out, in full fly gear (freshly sewn too btw cause he's hard on clothes). Because we still have mad bugs, wtf? It's almost November and the flies were TERRIBLE.

Husband took advantage of the good weather and build a tractor shed for his Gravely tractor. Since he put my parent's old kitchen cabinets in the tractor's nook in the garage, it doesn't fit anymore and needed a new temporary home for the winter.


I had some reports to run Tuesday afternoon that took a long time to run, so I ended up paroozing A Enter Spooking's old posts about second level and half pass, in anticipation of a Very Exciting Event Coming in November (I'm not ready to spill the beans and I kind of want to see how it goes first, but it's a super exciting learning opportunity). I started teetering between, "Ok, we've got this. We're ready for second level" and "OMG we need to repeat First Level because we are failing at everything!"

I ended up spending quite a bit of time reading/studying I Hate Half Pass and The Devil's Transition. The way Megan described half pass is just how I needed it- it's both shoulder in and haunches in, which makes no sense, but it does. You should never be shoving the horse across with the outside leg (whoa what?) and you need to maintain the cues for shoulder in (inside leg on to outside rein connection- who knew?!). Magical nonsense I say! I sat in my desk chair playing with seatbones when something clicked: In our first lesson working on it, we did shoulder in to half pass. When the shoulder in was good, I just weighted my inside leg and seatbone more and Penn went right over as if he was mind reading... THEN I STOPPED WHEN I LOST MY OWN BALANCE AND STARTED SHOVING AND THINGS WENT POORLY. Holy freaking shit. I started him off right, then started doing stupid things with my body! I was super excited for the end of the day to come so I could get on and test what I had read.

The first thing I did when I got on was test my shoulder in cues- inside leg to outside rein - where was Penn connecting to and what was I using to keep him there? That's when I rediscovered found a gaping hole in our training... Penn doesn't always go to the outside rein (and I fiddle too much to make him connect, so it's kind of fake and gee, could that be why we're struggling with it right now?). So the start of our ride was connecting to the outside rein: me making sure the correct seatbone was engaged and really putting my inside leg on at the girth. It did take some spur, sorry about that Penn. I have to undo a year's worth of poor training. As I moved to trot, Penn was much more connected than he's been in the recent past. I pulled another exercise out, one that Karen at Bakersfield Dressage told us all about last winter, and one I forgot about until now. I put Penn on a figure 8, and then went to walk across the middle to really focus on the change of bend, then back to trot.

Penn really struggled to change bend from right to left. That continued to be the theme of the day, bending left was tough. We ended up doing extra circles to the left until he really settled into the connection before walking, changing bend to the right, and trotting off again. His connection felt so much better- I wasn't doing anything except supporting him with leg. His first instinct both directions was to connect to the inside rein... something I'm sure I've helped along by fiddling too much with the inside rein. An interesting thing I found was that he wants to swing his haunches to change bend... probably because I haven't been asking properly.

Anyway, I started mixing the canter in, which is where "The Devil's Transition" comes in. I've been struggling with the canter walk, and it's been getting worse. After all this prep work though, plus the clue of "as soon as you pull on the reins, you've lost the hind end and the transition", I tried actually half halting before  wanted to walk, then asking for walk. And Penn promptly dropped into walk. Holy shit, what as discovery! Haha. We did a couple transitions both directions, again paying more attention to the left lead because we're struggling with left bend.

Penn got lots of pats and a walk break. I was blown away with how on task he was. He's been spooky, and while he looked a little, the new level of connection kept him on task. Again, go figure!

I wanted to try the half pass work again, but by this point Penn was running out of butt power. I tried it in walk anyway, aiming to keep everything brief: shoulder in to get back in the idea of inside leg to outside rein, with inside seatbone on, then some outside leg to ask for him to move across the diagonal, then back to shoulder in when one of us starting failing out of the half pass. I had to resist the urge to sit in the outside seatbone hole that's created, and to keep him moving to my outside rein (which comes from the inside leg). Holy crap was it a lot easier to ask for, and Penn never once slowed down or tried to quit (or rear).

Off to trot where I found I had to post on the right diagonal (as in right vs left, not right vs wrong) in both directions, and I couldn't sit the trot- that let me squash him with my seat. I really really want to pull with my inside rein in the half pass. I found when I wanted to do that, I put some extra effort into inside leg to outside rein to fix his bend, and it only took gentle prodding with my outside leg to get him to move over. When he'd start to fizzle, I'd ask for shoulder in again, which he struggled with and it was very leg-yield-like inside of bent shoulder in.

The half pass right was super (this is the one he's been shutting down in). He willingly moved forward into it and it was just nice. Not show worthy since he inverted a bit (he's doing that in shoulder in right now too), but he started to soften towards the end of the work and I never once felt like I was shoving him across the arena.

We did a bunch each direction, mixing in medium trot/collect/medium trot/working trot to keep him thinking forward. I lost a bit of connection doing that, so it's something to work on too. The left was much harder- he was more inclined to leg yield vs shoulder in that direction and I fought with him a bit over it. I think he was just tired by that point, so I didn't pick at it too much.

I let him stretch trot and walk at that point- I was so pleased with all the work even though it lacked bend. He tried so hard the whole time and even started to soften a little. I think I need to do a bit less with my seat- I tend to squash with my seatbones. Such a light bulb moment ride though- everything was so much better and while I still struggle with the half pass, I think I finally understand!

Half pass has been described to me as haunches in on the diagonal to get the feeling, but it's more like shoulder in and I couldn't piece that together. At all. Now I can: shoulder in uses inside leg to outside rein with inside seatbone. Then for half pass, maintain the inside seatbone and inside leg to outside rein support to keep the horse's balance over the outside shoulder, and add some outside leg to send it sideways. If you have to start piling on the outside leg to get the horse to move over, you've lost something in the starting connection. A huge 'durr' moment: if you're shoving the haunches over with your outside seatbone and outside leg, you'll never have inside bend because outside seatbone DOES NOT CREATE inside bend. Ever.

So thanks Megan! You explained this is a way that I understand!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Survivor Run 6 Miler

This is post 300! Wahoo!

A couple weekends ago (10/1), Penn and I went with Hawk and Fiction to a mini-endurance thing. A slightly further away than local horse park offered an introductory and educational 12 mile ride (and 6 mile for us extra wimpy folks). It was organized by a woman whose mother had cancer and loved endurance riding. The 12 mile ride did two 6 mile loops with a vet check in between. The 6 mile ride did just the one loop. I don't really care to ride for hours on end, so I know endurance is not for me, but it sounded like fun and I was able to ride my 6 miles with Hawk's first 6 miles. I figured the 6 mile ride would be like a glorified hunter pace (it was faster in fact).

Pulling out of my driveway (later than I wanted to) at 3:51am.

We started by listening to an educational seminar about endurance racing. How to fold our competition papers and what to expect at the vet checks, then tack we should look into acquiring if we wanted to do more races. Most of the time was spent on the vet check and strategies on bringing your horse in with the lowest heart rate possible. Ensuring you walk the last half mile, even get off the horse and walk it, having the right tack so you can get the bit out of the horse's mouth ASAP.

There was a lot of discussion on feeding the horse at the vet check... umm what? News to me. The endurance riders who led the discussion LOVE soaked alfalfa so that it sits in the hind gut which helps the gut noises and puts extra hydration into the horse (both Hawk and I feed soaked alfalfa before riding, we were happy to be ahead of the curve on that one!). They were all about letting the horse graze at the vet check (oops, I don't have the right bridle to make that easy for Penn). It was really interesting- these people know their horses inside out. It reminded me of what I was told at the long format I did, "In the time you spend preparing for a long format, you should get to know your horse so well that you know what his favorite grass looks like."

We were dismissed and went to fetch our horses for the first vet check.

What was immediately clear was that Penn and Fiction were the biggest bodied horses at the ride. Fiction was definitely the tallest. The vets went all over the horses: listening to breathing, heart rate, gut sounds, and feeling the back, hindquarters, and legs (Penn reacted strongly to the vet palpating his legs and may have tried to kick him... at least he laughed it off). Then we jogged 125 ft on gravel, down and back, for soundness. Penn trotted sideways because I couldn't keep up with him (he was extra fresh apparently). He passed easily and we went back to get tacked up.

I had hemmed and hawed about which tack to use: jump tack or comfy dressage saddle? I ended up going with the jump tack only because it had rained and I really didn't want to expose my dressage saddle to possible rain and the ground at the vet check.

There was a small warm up area, and Penn felt really up and forward so I put him to work over his back and he was a gem. I wouldn't mind having that horse at shows! Hawk and I went to the start when they called us, and went towards the back. We knew the front horses would take off running from start, and while we were eager to get going, we didn't want to jazz up Penn and Fiction and then have possible assholes to ride for the next few hours. We walked off of start and trotted at a good pace through the front fields, during which Penn burned off a lot of his excess "fresh horse" energy (I put my hands in his neck and let him fight himself and a running martingale).

Before the start.

Penn managed to almost dump me in the first ten minutes. I was really regretting my choice of saddle (it's not very comfortable and is a very flat xc jump saddle not being ridden on jump stirrup length). As expected though, Penn was jumping small creeks and muddy areas. I had decided beforehand. if there was any chance of him jumping something, I'd grab a solid hold of my breastplate, sit quiet and steady, and just let him work it out... well I didn't grab soon enough and I'm not practiced at jumping anymore, and the last time I jumped regularly I was having trouble with pinching knees and sliding legs... so Penn jumped sooner than I expected over a mud pit, then went bouncing around as I flopped around on his back while shouting the very effective and helpful, "shit shit shit!"

I deeply regret not bringing my helmet camera (how often do I really get to use it? This would have been perfect!) because it would have been a hilarious video to share.

All was well though and that was the most exciting bit of the ride. Everything else went smoothly and Hawk and I had a good time walking through a very unique looking forest area- tons of skinny trees with zero foliage or branches until about 10ft up, and then trotting and cantering where the path allowed. We were passed a couple times by people who were managing to trot the tiny path that wove through the tall skinny trees. That was about the point where we realized Penn and Fiction's dressage trots are not the right gait for this- they need less powerful strides that cover less ground, but step more often. It was funny, we were passed by little horses taking teeny trot steps through the trees, but in the open when we could trot, we'd catch back up in no time! We did get to practice changing bend as we trotting through the trees, and Penn quickly learned to respond ASAP to me when I'd make a pace or bend change... otherwise he found himself slipping or headed right for a tree!

We walked the last half mile or so, which included a trip through the horse park's water complex. I tried to get Penn to canter through, but I wasn't clear on my aids because I wasn't sure he'd get in the water nicely!

We walked across finish and got checked in... this is where I could use some more experience of when the clock stops counting and when the count for the rest period begins... and the strategies for the time between we arrive back and the vet check that starts the rest period. I was confused by the hustle and bustle of people who were prepping to go back out for another 6 miles, so I didn't do the best I could have at the vet check. Oh well, Penn arrived with a low enough heart rate that we were cleared to go see the vet for another heart rate/gut sound check and soundness check immediately. Penn got the same good "grades", all A's and four +'s for gut sounds.

I spent a long time cleaning him up- the facility didn't have hoses so I couldn't hose all the mud and dirt off of him- I had to sponge it all off. It was a cooler day, so I tossed on his BOT mesh sheet and waited at the vet check for Hawk to come back from her second 6 miles. Penn was NOT happy to be separated from Fiction. He screamed and screamed and wouldn't eat grass.

Depressed horse is sad his friend isn't there with him.
 He was super happy when they got back! No more depressed face or screaming. He happily stood with Fiction so I could hold them both and Hawk could do what she needed to do to take care of Fiction.

"My friend is back! I'm going to chew his nose while he tries to drink."
Penn finally wanted water after Fiction came back.

I ended up finishing 3rd in the 6 mile race (out of 6, haha). They had a bunch of neat prizes, but Hawk and I ended up swapping prizes since we liked what the other got better!

The sun came out in time for me to grab this pic!

It was a lot of fun, and I'll probably go again next year... maybe I'll even do the 12 mile!

Friday, October 14, 2016

10/11 Lesson - Half Pass Help

Alright, I'm falling off the train here. I have a bunch of draft posts in my folder (because we have been up to stuff, I promise!), and I just need to dump in the media and some words. Hell, one of them is just media dump. Ughhh, but I can't bring myself to do it, I don't know why... though it could be that I've been working 5-8 hours of OT at work every week for the last couple weeks and have no desire to sit at a computer for even more time...

Trainer was out last Tuesday for lessons, so I'll just do a brief recap.

Our issues/comments from between lessons:

  • The flying changes are going well on my own, however I can't seem to do them on a straight line. I don't set Penn up properly and I miss "the moment" and end up kicking him forward instead. Circle to circle, counter canter to true canter on the circle exercise, all good.
  • Counter canter is going well too. I've been switching up what we do- yes, figure 8, flying change, ok now no change and do the figure 8 on the same lead, etc. He keeps asking if I want a flying change, I say no thank you, he says OK, then about two strides later he asks again if I want a change.
  • Half pass strugglebus. Big time. I've been doing shoulder in to half pass since I struggle with bend and haunches leading, but I'm losing all bend. The half pass left is OK, but the half pass right... not only does is lack bend, but he's quitting after a couple steps.

We ended up spending the entire lesson working on half pass in walk and trot, without ever making it to canter or looking at the changes. That's fine, that's not the struggle right now.

Half pass: a steeper angle Travers on the diagonal?

Trainer had me warm up in walk and trot doing leg yields and serpentines etc. We moved on to half pass work in walk where things were confirmed: Penn is short backed, and I continuously push him to too steep an angle. Plus, Penn is hitting his legs with his other legs. He has to figure out the footwork.

Trainer had me do the following exercise across the diagonal:

  • Wall to quarterline, let the shoulders lead excessively.
  • Quarterline to centerline, push the haunches to lead excessively.
  • Centerline to quarterline, let the shoulders lead excessively.
  • Quarterline to wall, ask for normal half pass.
By the time we'd get to step 4, Penn would be like, "OH THANK GOODNESS! This is much easier than that other stuff."

However, he started shutting down in step 2, especially to the right, and even went to far as to stop and lift his front feet off the ground. Little taps with the whip reminded him to keep going, but he wasn't happy.

Once in trot, we worked the same pattern. Trainer had me post on the right handed diagonal for both half passes, but instead of half passing on both diagonals, she had me half pass across one (or most of the way across, I usually ran out of ring length), and then on the next she had me lengthen, collect over x, and lengthen again to the wall.

Penn got the idea in trot, but it's all still such a struggle. The half pass right is even more of a struggle- but after doing the lengthen work across that diagonal repeatedly, Trainer had me do half pass instead, and he was very forward thinking in that half pass instead of shutting down (repetition for the win). He's still hitting himself with his legs, so obviously he needs more time just practicing the footwork. I did make an attempt to do it in canter before this lesson, and it was surprisingly smooth, but I have no idea how correct it was.

Things got better towards the end, but I'm still feeling discouraged. I know I'm too heavy handed with the rein during it (as found by my ride Thursday night when I made a huge attempt to do nothing with the reins and ask for it...), and so that probably means I need to spend more time doing haunches in properly on the wall, because how I originally read about half pass was this:

Half pass is just haunches in on the diagonal. It's not shoving the hind end around on the diagonal. (see graphic above)

With that logic, Mikey always led with the haunches because I couldn't work out the line I needed to ride to make it more similar to haunches in, yet the shoulders still led when viewed from A/C.

Penn struggles big time with haunches in right (right hind doesn't like stepping up to the plate), but seems agreeable to haunches in left. I changed my thinking a bit, and I started with the first step of shoulder in to get on the diagonal, then asked for gentle haunches in on a diagonal line... Penn's half pass seemed to get a lot better after I changed my thinking.

I should also say that our connection has hit a huge snag - as I ask for all these new things, the connection gets thrown out the window... which leads me to believe I need to work on making it truer in general. (side note, connection Thursday night was really great, then as I started some canter work, Penn's brain fell out of his head and he became a spooky bastard that would not connect, especially in trot... or track straight either). Same goes for bend because I put my inside leg on and sometimes I get ignored, but I always assume I'm doing something else that prevents him from reacting properly.

Taken from Google.
I know Penn's half pass won't look like this!

Alright blog land, how do you think about riding half pass? Was it bad and then all of a sudden magic and butterflies as it clicked? How much bend should you have? (I guess the answer to that is 10m bend) How do you help create bend? Maintain bend? These are stupid questions I'm sure, but I'm really just struggling to grasp the concept. I wish I had mirrors that I could check myself!

I found this article by Janet Foy, from Dressage Today about riding half pass and travers. I really like it. I think Trainer's exercise is on the right path since Janet describes a similar "test" at the end of the article and I was just approaching it wrong (I'm shoving the haunches instead of riding travers on the diagonal).

Friday, October 7, 2016


Husband has acquired a toy.

Husband said I can play too.

Oh Penn...!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Adding it Up

Some of you might have noticed I have an "Adding it up" section off to the right on my blog. I use this to keep track of things like medals, qualifying scores, rider awards, and horse awards.

As I reset my goals and come up with things for next year, I wanted to preserve how it looked at the end of the 2016 competition year. Note that I used the first qualifying score for an award, not necessarily the best score. The scores themselves aren't recorded anywhere anyway, otherwise I would the best scores!

2016 GAIG/USDF Region 1 Championships Qualifying - First Level
Score 1 - 62.206% (5/22/2016)
Score 2 - 68.971% (6/5/2016)

2016 CBLM Championships Qualifying - First Level
Score 1 - 62.500% (5/21/2016)

USDF Bronze Medal:
1 - 63.919% (7/20/2013)
1 - 62.581% (7/20/2013)
2 - 64.211% (6/8/2014)
2 - 62.024% (6/8/2014)
3 - 
3 - 

USDF First Level Rider Performance Award:
Score 1 - 63.919% (7/20/2013 - Bass)
Score 2 - 62.581% (7/20/2013 - Hannon)
Score 3 - 62.500% (5/21/2016 - Vogel)
Score 4 - 69.063% (6/5/2016 - Schmitt)

USDF First Level Horse Performance Certificate:
Score 1 - 62.500% (5/21/2016 - Vogel)
Score 2 - 62.206% (5/22/2016 - Vogel)
Score 3 - 69.063% (6/5/2016 - Schmitt)
Score 4 - 68.971% (6/5/2016 - Schmitt)
Score 5 - 68.750% (6/11/2016 - Vracko)
Score 6 - 64.412% (6/11/2016 - Schneider)
Score 7 - 62.794% (6/12/2016 - Vracko)
Score 8 - 69.063% (9/4/2016 - Lees)
Score 9 - 67.941% (9/4/2016 - Malone-Casey)
Score 10 - 65.469% (9/16/2016 - Hyslop)
Different Judges: 7/4
Different Shows: 6/4
From 1-3: 5/4

Not a bad season! Of course the Bronze Medal scores are leftover from my time with Mikey, so they aren't directly related to this season... The only things that will remain for next year are the Bronze Medal scores. I'll put the Second Level Rider Award and Second Level Horse Performance Certificate on there, but I'm not sure I'm going to go to enough things to be able to get the horse award. I have to be very careful about what I go to next year (I don't foresee the disposable income to go to as many shows as I did this year), especially since I want to finish my bronze next year which means we won't be riding second level as many times as we rode first level. I also feel an incredible desire to skip Second Level. Ugh, we won't, but I want to!

Time to reset for next year!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Lesson 9/27 :D :D


:D :D :D :D :D

That was basically my face after lesson, grinning like a stupid fool. Even Trainer snuggled Penn, she was happy too!

But let's back up a minute.

We had lesson on Tuesday, first one since champs. I warmed up in walk a little in walk with leg yields and starting half pass (because I suck at it and it's easier to work in the walk) while Trainer looked over my tests from Championships. She was very pleased with them- they were consistent and there were no glaring you-suck-at-this movements, just green horse mistakes and rider errors. Basically experience problems. We had connection and steadiness in the bridle issues, but we have that at home and we're working on it. Basically just keep moving forward and onward!

She said, "I see from Facebook you've been working on flying changes? Let's have a look at those today. They're the next step anyway."

So we chatted about how I was approaching them. She wanted to try them from half pass since that's the one way I haven't done them (and she's thought for a while it would be the easiest way for Penn to do them and understand), and I said I was afraid to do them from half pass because the half pass just sucks right now. So we looked at half pass first.

I'm going to attempt to remember our half pass work. There was important information in there that should be recorded but it's just fallen out of my head. I can't remember it all because I'm so happy over the second half of lesson, haha. Here's some bullet points of what I think I remember. I'll have to ask her to go over it with me again next time...

The exercise: Shoulder-in on the quarterline to half-pass. Turn the new direction and repeat.
  • Half pass left needs more right leg to keep the right hind coming
  • In trot leg yields left he's started to feel bridle lame- she made me relax my left hand and just let him work himself out, same thing in half pass left. (I'm pretty sure this was the solution- basically he just needed to figure it out himself)
  • Half pass right struggles with bend. *crickets* I honestly can't remember what she said about helping that along, major fail here cause I could have told you about the bend struggle haha! I'm pretty sure it amounted to doing less because I tend to smother which prevents the things I'm trying to smother into existing. Yea, that doesn't work.
  • In shoulder in, be careful how much angle I get- Mikey was long backed and needed more. Penn is short backed and doesn't need anywhere near as much angle before he's on 4 tracks. If the shoulder in feels right, it's probably too much angle.
  • The half pass has the opposite problem. If the half pass feels right, I need to check that still have angle, otherwise the haunches are probably leading. My feel is off- I feel that it needs to actively have a crossing feeling like leg yield... and I don't think that's right... so my whole feel is wrong.
I love this picture.
And I know Mikey's haunches are leading.
But toe point!
  • Start the half pass work in posting trot on the wrong diagonal.
  • When I switch to sitting trot, all it takes is a simple weight shift to send him into half pass across the diagonal. Let sensitive pony be sensitive!
  • He was jumpy off the contact, but held some bend and had excellent crossover.
  • The one time he stayed on the bit in the half pass right, he was a crossing fiend and I felt that whoosh sideways with reach. Ermygawd, I need to not be stupid in the half pass so that's the norm!
Half pass homework? Keep practicing in walk and trot so we can move on to half pass in canter.

Trail ride Wednesday evening.

Trainer had me start the canter work by showing her what I've been doing. I started off to the left, did a couple one loops and double one loops because Penn decided to be a spooky bastard about the back end of the indoor arena. I then moved on to our canter/walk/counter canter/walk/canter on a circle at the front of the indoor. I did a couple simple changes, then asked for the flying change back to true canter. BAM! He was prompt, clean, not anticipatory. Trainer was like, what the hell, that was clean and a non-event!

She had me change direction and show her the same work to the right. Same non-event clean change at the end. Then she got after me for letting him stop after as I praised him ("Eventually you're going to want to do more than one!")

She had me repeat the circle exercise to the right. At this point, Penn had caught on quite well to what was going on and was anticipating via inverting (not overly concerned about that right now). He was extra prompt and super up in the transitions from walk to canter and was starting to find his sassy pants. He was also pinning his ears until we did the flying change, which I wasn't crazy about.

We repeated the same clean change, then trainer wanted me to go down the next diagonal and do another change. I opted to go down the wall and come around on the diagonal the other direction (I thought doing a flying change into a spooky part of the arena wouldn't be good for him), but by the time I came all the way around, I lost the good canter and got all befuddled across the diagonal. I asked for the change and pitched myself forward (hello Mikey habits) and Penn went, "OMG you said gooooooo!" and squirted out down the diagonal. I half halted and sat up and asked again and he gave another clean change in the corner (even though we were still a sloppy mess).

That exact response is why I like changes on the circle right now- I don't do the bad things that make Penn misinterpret my cues. I need to fix myself. No pitching forward!

I'm pretty sure this is the reason I pitch forward... because changes were such an event with Mikey. Hell, the one lesson he almost dumped me over his ass because he launched up so hard.

She had me start the circle exercise again towards the other end of the arena going to the left, but not the full way at the end of the arena- enough so that I could go a super short diagonal towards the non-spooky end of the arena. By this point, Penn was quite hoppy off the aids and VERY sassy, so I toned down all of my cues. He stopped pinning his ears at that point and listened to me. I made him do a couple extra walk/canter/walk before asking for the next change (which was perfectly clean). Trainer had me take him across the diagonal again where I botched the change by shooting him down the diagonal via pitching forward. Turn around, repeat to the left.

Clean change again on the circle exercise from an even sassier Penn, then across the diagonal with a much more relaxed and through horse. I kept my shit together and asked for the change, and Penn promptly did a nice clean change, with a bit less sass.


He's a freaking smart cookie. This is the 4th time I've touched the changes, and the most we've ever done in a ride. And they're clean. Inverted with a bit of sass, but they're clean. I kept asking trainer, "They're clean right? Not late behind?!"

Comments from the work as we did it:

  • Tracking left in the circle exercise: When changing from true canter to counter canter, make the change more from the leg and less from the seat. I'm shoving his haunches over with my left seatbone (wrong), instead of the left leg and right seatbone for the new bend. And I mean shoving, BTW. Like I felt my left side dip and push and Trainer was like, "STOP DOING THAT!"
  • I need to find a true working canter. Penn goes in more of a collected canter since his canter was a mess for so long. Trust him in finding a bigger working canter so I don't smother him as much and so that his sass has a direction to go in. Same goes for the counter canter. Trust the horse and hold his lead with my leg and seat.
  • Be quieter with my whole body- leg, seat, hand, everything.

Flying change homework? Don't touch it too much (aka don't touch for at least a week!). And work on being quieter with all the body parts, and ask more from the leg because right now my seat is screaming at him. Work the circle exercise without the flying changes to help break the anticipating and to keep working on the counter canter. Find a true working canter in the counter canter on the circle. Basically, counter canter all I want and work a ton of simple changes. The canter-walks still need a ton of work.

But OMG guys, I'm pretty sure by next summer we'll have the changes and counter canter sorted out... We just need to develop medium and extended trot and extended canter... then it's Bronze Medal time!

I got Felix a no-stuffing rabbit dog toy.
He loves it. He grabs it with his claws and throws it and tumbles with it.