Lesson 12/5/18

Once again, the weather was beautiful all week until it was time for ya girl to lesson when it was 29°! We lessoned with an AO jumper, which was so fun and interesting (as soon as Katie told me I was doing a different course).

We began with the forward, stretching trot work that we’ve been doing in the cold to let him warm up. We then cantered through poles set three strides apart alternating between doing three and four strides. To begin our jumping work, we cantered a single vertical on a circle to the left and then the right concentrating on getting to the very middle of the jump. And then it was time for… the gymnastic!

You can’t tell, but that second jump is an oxer about 3’3″ tall and 3’9″ wide. We trotted into this gymnastic from a very tight turn then hopped the crossrail, took one stride to the huge oxer, and then one stride to the vertical. Pluto handled the gymnastic perfectly and was very powerful and graceful over every jump. I felt very anxious and threw my body over every jump. We jumped through a few times and at the end I was a little better, but it definitely showed me that I need to work on my upper body control.

We are showing this weekend, so we did a course similar to one we might see at McDonogh. I was a a bit rusty and Pluto was a bit excited towards home, but we put in a good course.

Having It All

If you watched 30 Rock or are an adult who is alive in 2018, you probably know the struggle of trying to have it all. It can be so overwhelming and anxiety provoking trying to keep all those balls in the air: raising kids, spouses who apparently also have wants and needs, jobs, friends, etc. Add horses to the mix and just reading those words makes my chest tighten (deep breathing. In and out). So, how do other people juggle their full lives with this time (and financially) consuming sport? That’s a question I think about a lot, so this is the first of a series of posts where I’ll interview riders to discover how they juggle everything. But I’m going to start with myself, because that’s easier than talking to other people.

Thank goodness they love each other

Even without horses, I am blessed to have so much in my life: I am raising my daughter full time and I work part time at the pediatric clinic. I am lucky that we have a babysitter (who just started nursing school) or my mother in law (who lives 2 hours away) to watch my daughter until my husband finishes working on days that I am in the clinic; however, this means we have no one who is readily available to watch her while I ride.

I try to ride three to four times a week: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (although a lot of Sundays are non-riding, family days). On the weekends, my husband can stay home with my daughter, and our babysitter can often watch her on Friday afternoons. On Wednesdays, I have to cobble together childcare, which can be stressful. I’ve learned to ask for help, and she’s been watched by friends, old babysitters, and my mom during work breaks. Thankfully, my trainers are very understanding about difficulties with childcare.

How do I keep things from falling through the cracks? I don’t. Between paperwork for my job, working out, play dates, etc, something often falls through. But, I’m always thankful for everything in my life and that so many people are available to help me. And if I ever feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that there isn’t anything that I would give up. I’m so fortunate to have such a full life and to be able to spend so much time with my daughter and ride and show on this level. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in trying to have it all is to ask for help when I need it. Asking for help can be really hard (because I feel like I can do it all myself or I don’t want to inconvenience anyone), but I’ve found that people are often happy to help if they can.

Lesson 12/1/18

I had a really great lesson yesterday, and, even more exciting, my mother was able to come and take video!

It was raining and 40°, but Pluto was absolutely perfect! I could feel my toes for the first ride in weeks, so maybe he was warm enough to feel his hooves and that made him happier. We began with trotting just working on a going forward and coming from behind. We then added circles and worked on letting them really stretch to both sides. We carried that over to our canter work and worked on bigger bends and more subtle bends in circles and keeping their bodies straight on the long sides of the ring.

We began our jumping work by cantering a pole that was five strides to a small vertical. It was set comfortably, so the first time we go to the vertical a little early. Our second time, we were able to even it out. We then added a second vertical seven bending strides away followed by a right turn back to the five-stride.

We added a forward five stride across the diagonal back to the broken seven-stride to the five-stride. The only hiccup was that we accidentally did six in the seven (oops!). I knew getting him back from the diagonal would be hard, but I didn’t ask quite hard enough. The next time we were able to smooth the last line out and I put more bend in the line, which helped it work out nicer.

I also worked to be more disciplined during my downward transitions, because that helps us develop the important muscles to have beautiful lead changes. I love to pick up my heels and keep my arms straight when I halt, but then Pluto likes to keep pulling through the halt. When I sit in the saddle with correct equitation, Pluto is noticeably softer.

Lesson 11/28/18

I can’t believe I’m about to type these words, but Pluto was wild* today! Katie and I were both shocked. She was like, “He’s so good that I took him for granted.” It was 32° and he’d just gotten clipped, so his freshness was pretty understandable.

*wild for Pluto. Not like wild-wild

“Me wild? You cray!”

When I was mounting, he spun a little and started walking, and he was snorting and spooking at everything in the ring. We trotted for a long time to help him calm down, and it worked pretty well. We cantered through two rails set as a one-stride that were set right out of the corner, and he felt great–only like 2 scoots!

Katie put two flowers on the ground in front of two jumps as a tunnel for where we should leave the ground as we did a big figure eight over the jumps. The first time we did it, we left with our feet in the correct spot but cheated as our straightness was not great. We tried again, and Pluto could hardly contain himself! He crow hopped away from the jumps (but a little bit of a pathetic crow hop since his feet only got about 2″ off the ground). We decided we’d reached his limit, and I let him trot out on a loose rein.

I found his freshness really endearing today, because he just seemed like he was having fun!

Lesson 11/24/18

I had a lesson Saturday, but didn’t get to write about it until now since we did Thanksgiving dinner that afternoon. I got home and needed to cook and get the toddler to nap and totally forgot to journal my ride! Before this week, Pluto had only jumped twice since Washington. We were supposed to show this coming weekend, so Pluto needed to jump a bit and prepare. (We can’t do that show after all, because I double booked a Breakfast with Santa for the exact same time.  You can’t cancel on him in December, because he’s super busy and that will land your butt on the naughty list!) In my other lessons this week, we kept the jumps very low, so to prep for the show, we put them a little higher (about 2’9″ probably).

Pluto said, “no thanks! It’s cold!”

We warmed up at the trot then trotted back and forth through three poles set at an extended trot to three poles set for a collected trot about 20-30 feet away. We then added cantering down the long side and coming back to the trot for the rails. My trainer added two flower boxes as a one stride on the long side, and Pluto thought it definitely had teeth. He went right over it, but definitely finagled his body so the monster couldn’t eat him. When we cantered the other way, we added a rail set three strides to a 1’ jump.

We didn’t get video, so my mom will be very happy that the course maps are back

I can’t remember if we warmed up over any jumps, but Pluto was very strong so we had to modify our courses and cut out the lines toward home. We were able to have a soft, balanced canter to the jumps, but he had to be rebalanced hard after each jump.

As we picked up the canter for a second course that included full lines, someone drove a four wheeler/ golf cart (I have no idea what it is called) into the ring, because there was a missing dog concern. Pluto found this very exciting and got much stronger. After the first jump, we halted and adjusted the course and did some singles with halts after. We were able to stay soft and balanced before the jump and halt after, which is usually really hard for us (and wasn’t entirely easy today).

I’m bummed about the show, but luckily there is one the following week and I’m excited to take my daughter to meet Santa!

Lesson 11/23/18

The temperature dropped about 15-20° to below 30° for my lesson yesterday, so Pluto was a bit of a freight train! (For years, I’d been using an asterisk for my degree sign, but yesterday my friend taught me how to make ° on my phone. It literally blew my mind, and life will never be the same.) Because it was so cold, we let them stretch and warm up for a long time. At the trot, we worked on their shape by asking them to bend and counterbend. There were two poles set up in a long 5 stride line. For our canter work, we worked on adjustability by cantering them in 5 strides and then 6 strides. At this point in the lesson, Pluto was fresh but still coming back to me nicely.

We kept the jumps about 1′ to 18″ since it was freezing. We began with the same course from Wednesday with a balanced but active canter and halted at the end of each line. Pluto felt balanced and lovely and came back to me nicely each time. (I have some video, so unfortunately no course maps today. I know everyone (e.g. my mom) will be disappointed.)

We then set off to do a course where we alternated between a steady canter/ adding a stride and going forward/ leaving the stride out. It became clear after the first line that Pluto was too forward for that course (see clip above–my videographer was also on a horse so bare with us through the whole clip).

We altered our course to include more transitions and maintain a balanced, collected canter. Pluto was pulling the ol’ “stronger towards the barn and softer away,” so we ended with a line away from the barn. He ended with a nice soft halt, and we quit on that since I have another lesson today (in fact, I am leaving now!)

Happy Thanksgiving and lesson 11/21/18

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m so thankful for my family, Pluto, and all the amazing opportunities I had this year. I am so fortunate and have so much to be thankful for!

I had a really great lesson yesterday. Before I get to that, though, how much better is my course map (below)?! It only took me forever to make!

Anyway, back to my lesson. We began by working in a forward trot and then added transitions while maintaining our impulsion. For our canter work, we did a forward canter, then shortened his stride and stepped over a 1 foot jump. We worked on keeping our pace consistent and just meeting the jump.

We then cantered a course of long rides to singles, and we worked on keeping our pace consistent and his balance up to me. It was so clear that regardless of my pace, when I have him balanced and my hands soft, we have many more options to the jumps. I realized that even if I’m keeping a steadier pace, I have to fix my canter to make sure it’s balanced, coming from behind, and not backward before every jump.

It was such a great lesson for learning!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone eats lots of yummy food!

Definitive List of the All Time Best Horse Movies

To begin, this isn’t really a definitive list; it’s just my favorite horse movies. Also, I’ve definitely forgotten some of my favorites, so I might come back to add more. I do what I want!

8. Harry and Snowman

All images from Google Images

My mom donated to the kickstarter campaign for this movie, so we were very excited about it long before it came out. It’s a fascinating true story about a trainer who saves a horse from slaughter who ultimately ends up becoming a successful jumper. I also love seeing what horse shows were like in the 1960s.

7. Phar Lap

I admittedly haven’t seen this movie in 20 years, but it used to be my favorite movie. It’s about an Australian race horse, and I very vividly remember a scene where they’re galloping him over sand dunes to build strength and he’s falling because he’s so tried. It’s heartbreaking, but the movie is a great reminder about the importance of being sensitive to your horse and truly understanding what he needs.

6. Seabiscuit

The ultimate ugly duckling movie! I remember listening to the book on tape as I pulled up to a horse show, and I wouldn’t get out of the car until I heard if he won his big race (spoiler alert: he did).

5. Miracle of the White Stallions

You know you’re an animal person when you wonder about animal welfare during important historical events. If you’re curious how the Lipizzaner horses of Vienna survived WWII, Disney lays it all out for you while showing beautiful footage of the work done at the Spanish Riding School. I can’t imagine it would be interesting to anyone who isn’t a horse lover or history buff, but if you are either, it is amazing! And, you will be forever thankful for General Patton, Colonel Podhajsky, and everyone who loves horses and puts horses’ needs above their own.

4. National Velvet

Who doesn’t want to live in England and ride around jumping hedges after watching this movie? This movie should really be higher on the list, but why do they have American accents in England?! I think every horse crazy young girl can identify with Velvet, and we’ve all dreamed of miraculously coming to own a horse like The Pie!

3. Black Beauty

This movie/ book is the reason I can’t sell horses. Actually, this book created every horse anxiety I have: putting them away before they’re cooled out properly, barn fires, crossing bridges. It’s just one horrific event after another. Why do I love this movie?!

2. Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken

Close your eyes, Sonora! Close your eyes!!! A few years ago, I heard rumblings of bringing horse diving back, and I think this movie definitely helped shut that down.

1. International Velvet

I sometimes pretend this movie is so bad that it’s good, but I actually just straight up love it. I love that the timeline doesn’t add up (a horse has to be 8 to compete in the Olympics, but their timeline would mean Arizona is only 6). I love the cast (Christopher Plummer and Anthony Hopkins!)! I love that she has such a bad attitude. It’s just similar enough to other horse movies to feel familiar and different enough to be so interesting. Plus, he pays for her riding by writing smut novels, and that is brilliant and crazy relatable. And a baller idea. In fact, I need to start writing some R rated novels $$$.

So, that’s the definitive list of the 8 best horse movies that I could remember today. Truthfully, if I’m watching something with horses, it’s probably a clinic DVD, because I am truly that nerdy.

What are your favorite horse movies? And, I apologize if I forgot a movie or you don’t like something I said. Just let me know in the comments.

Lesson 11/16/18

As I mentioned, I started this blog to track my lessons and shows, and I’ve been a loyal lesson journaler (my phone thinks I made that word up, but I think it’s legit) for about a year now. I like to include images and diagrams for myself, but I didn’t get any pictures or videos. Please don’t be too impressed with my high tech course maps! Obviously I missed my calling making course maps in the notes app on my phone.

We started the lesson doing lengthening and shortening at the trot and canter and doing some turn on the haunches. We were working on not letting the horses get over bent either direction or throwing their shoulders out. We then warmed up circling over two jumps set across the ring.

I was able to find one of the jumps pretty consistently but kept losing my canter to the other one and getting deep. My third time around, I balanced my canter better and they both worked out just right.

We then moved on to a figure eight over a six stride exercise:

The first time through, he was behind my leg and too slow. When I balanced him up to me and developed a medium canter and a soft hand, we were able to maintain our balance and canter through the turns and do the exercise nicely. Of course, then Katie made me turn back to the second jump to add the 6 stride line.

The first time we did this exercise, our figure eight worked out really nicely. Then, because his balance and canter were so good, he jumped the in of the line hard and I became disorganized. I was able to steady for the six but not as nicely as I would have liked. We went again, and I got too deep to the second jump, but I was able to stay much more organized and make the steady six work. We ended with a single and the six away from home, and we were able to keep our nice canter for three jumps.

I know this is really dry and my drawn course maps leave much to be desired, but… there’s really no but. It was a really interesting lesson but I don’t know if it translates well into a blog post. I’ll try to figure out a better course map system for next time.