Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016: A whirlwind review

2016 was ushered in with one of the most lovely trail rides ever

Tango went cross country for the first time, and although exuberant was very good

In February, I bought a truck

And took possibly the most 'Merican photo ever

We ramped up to prepare for Twin Rivers and had a trailer malfunction that resulted in Chente and Diva just kinda chilling downtown while I got the trailer's tire replaced

We had a loose-goat problem, which prompted Twin's #notevenloosegoatscanstopusnow
In March we loaded up and headed to Twin for a long weekend

Which was a spectacular success and we all learned a lot.

I started taking more regular jumping lessons

Which resulted in a FANTASTIC show for Tangoose in April.

He also gained a lot of confidence about everything

April wasn't all good however, as we lost Diva to colic.

And my sister came to visit me in May!

I also met Jen from CobJockey and managed to only take terrible photos (sorry Jen...)

Chente made it back to Twin for a successful horse trial

In June all the lessons began to pay off for Kat and I as we had a pretty quiet show, even though I overestimated my mental strength and wasn't on my A-game for the mare and had to have someone lunge her for a while since I wasn't up to riding her properly.

June also saw Elrond purchased and brought home. And a NorCal blogger meetup!

I also had the opportunity to run the most amazing summer camp everrrr in which Megan helped with a dressage intense day 

July started off with a bang as my dog got kicked in the head - but she's fine! 

July also heralded in a new era in my riding: the beginning of Tracey lessons

I got to meet the friendliest grey hippo ever and I've been plotting how to steal him ever since

I began to struggle with a pretty deep sense that I'd lost my direction in riding and in life - and the apathy/depression continued to plague me for months

I went home to Michigan for a week

And remembered how much I love the state

August saw summer camps, continued Tracey lessons, and Alex beginning to take the ride over on Tango. 

I struggled a bit with Tracey's lateness 
But all the dressage work paid off big time for Kat's confidence in the show ring (which tbh was never a concern, so maybe now she's too confident lol) 

In September I apparently went cross country schooling with some combination of students every other day according to the photos I took (only sort of kidding), Tango and I came first at Novice at a horse trial at RDLA (OKAY OUT OF ONE BUT IT STILL COUNTS), and Kat hurt her fetlock which kicked off a good six weeks out of work. 

I met the lovely Austen and she subjected Tango to some major face cuddles 
Alex and Tango began to hit a stride as they ramped up for their first rated event together

We went to JK Presents and my students cleaned. up. Seriously. So unbelievably proud.

Tango and Alex were ah-mazing at their first rated event and I seriously considered crying after every phase

We went to RDLA to do some cross country schooling to ramp up for Twin's final one-day horse trial and had a run in with way. too. many. turkeys

Two of my students competed at Twin and finished, on horses that had never done a trial and riding horses that had never even jumped before these girls started training them - makes a trainer very proud

Somewhere in here I took the ride over on Jr and began to get pretty excited about his potential as a dressage mount

in November Kat made the triumphant return to work! And I went on an awesomely fun trail ride with Olivia
 Tango officially changed ownership to Alex, and I'm very excited to see their move up to training in the coming year.

Elrond began to hit his stride with jumping, and we're looking forward to seeing how that goes this coming season

and Kat is beginning to rebuild the strength necessary for what is on the docket for her career
It was a good year in a lot of ways, and a disappointing one in others. I showed a lot more in 2015 than I did this year, and instead diverted those funds to taking lessons from eight trainers in total, though most regularly with two. I miss showing, even though I spent all of 2015 on the schooling circuit with my students. I'm hoping that this year can find a healthy mix of training and showing. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Introducing Alfredo

Alright so enough with the teaser photos of this horse, and the story of how he came around. Tango found a home with the kid who has been riding him, so I had room in my herd for a new horse. I had a pretty limited range of things I was willing to look at, age/color/breed/cost-wise as this newest addition had to be a short-term resale project. But if I could find my unicorn, he could come home. 

And lo - the unicorn was located.

This fellow is coming six, he is a solid paint, and he's a really exciting horse to me. 

Minutes after being unloaded at my farm

His second day at the property

Third day: this was the day I took him on a trail ride, held the buckle the whole time, and CHATTED ON THE PHONE WHILE DOING IT 
 But seriously kids, don't be a hero. Don't take baby horses for trail rides and ignore them while being on the phone, even if you DO think you're riding a unicorn.

In the rain, his very first nighttime ride. 

Third jump school ever? Literally ever?

This is a very sweet horse. He just loves everyone and there's not much that scares him. He gets a little irritated at the canter sometimes and will sort of suck back, canter in place, and squeal, but he's so funny while he does it that you can't even get mad at him. 

And before I sell him as perfect in every way, he's green. So green. And makes baffling decisions, like cantering instead of stretching to the bit, or forgetting how to steer, or being deeply annoyed that I would suggest he stay on the bit in a walk-trot transition. 

But what I like about him is that he's sensible about his deep upsets. He has kicked out, and even offered a baby buck, but what the hey, the horse is five years old and has approximately 60 days of dressage training on him before he came to me. 

Before that, he was mostly trail ridden in company, so while he's been all over and done all sorts of things, he doesn't have a lot of independent thinking installed yet. And here, a video so you can see some of his issues: 

So it's a journey in front of us, but I like the damn horse so much already (resale project resale project resale project) that I think it'll go pretty smoothly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Three lessons on Jr: Tanya 1

I’m writing this after both days of a clinic with Tanya Vik, so it’s possible the two days will run into one another, although I took pretty good notes after the first lesson. 

Tanya asked me a little about me and about Jr and our goals together and what I wanted to work on, (the short version: Jr is an ex-hunter and sort-of lesson horse I’m trying to do dressage on because it seems fun and I wanted to improve my lateral work) and then sent us off to watch us go around. When she reeled me back in, she told me yes, you definitely need some lateral work, and referred to Jr as altogether too “gumby-like” which was super accurate because I always feel a bit like he’s going 17 directions and I’m herding cats to stuff them back in the barn. 

She had us do this very small walking turn on the forehand exercise to get him a bit more alive to my leg, essentially I had to keep him straight with my outside rein, looking to the inside with the inside rein, and move him off my inside leg, and move him forward with my outside leg. Once we were about 15% okay at this she had me move directly from this to a leg yield from the centerline to the rail. Then she asked someone to find me a whip, which Jr took great offense to and tried to buck, but it was hilarious because I just find him a bit uncoordinated when he bucks. 

Tanya pointed out that I do the same thing with my whip as I do my leg -- I come a bit too far away, but my timing is such that I really want to make corrections at the right moment, but when my whip is hanging out by his shoulder, when I go to correct him and want to correct him RIGHT THEN I end up whacking him way harder than I meant to because of the speed I go to move. And I do the same thing with my lower leg, I come a bit too far away from his side, so when I go to aid, I end up jabbing him too aggressively because of my momentum. 

Fair point. So she asked me to carry the whip so it rested across the top of my thigh, in order to encourage me to simply touch him with the whip rather than bite him with it. She also had me hold the whip a bit farther from the end so I could use my thumb to control it. 

And then we come to my favorite part of the day’s lesson, which was a beautiful image of straightness. 

She asked me to imagine that the horse is comprised of building blocks. Their haunches, their loin, their barrel, their withers, their neck, their head. Inside each building block is a small hole, designed for energy to flow through. As a rider, we have to get all of these building blocks lined up in order for the energy to come from the hind end and into our hands. So when he throws his shoulders around, or gets a kink in his hind end, what’s happening is he’s blocking that energy because all the pieces aren’t lined up in a straight way. 

So she then asked me to ride the horse as one unit, with these shifting pieces to sort of stuff back into line, and once they were in line, increase the energy coming through as if that energy were the glue that was going to hold everything together. 

And I’ll be damned: the horse came over his back and totally went to work, with much less fussiness to the contact and wild-eyed staring off into the distance. 

There was one very funny moment though, where Jr looked at something mid-transition and became super rigid in his topline, and Tanya asked me what happened. I sighed and said that I yanked on the right rein and fell behind the motion. She laughed and told me that he got distracted, the blocks fell out of alignment, and THEN he trotted, rather than me bringing him together again before putting the energy forward. I’m so ready to blame myself for everything that goes wrong, which is super helpful in a lot of ways, but also is a bit tough sometimes when horses are just being horses. 

Also seriously who IS this horse?! (Details... forthcoming.... ;)