Thursday, December 26, 2019

Bloghop: 2010s Photo Challenge

 This decade started a whole lot of changes in my life. Gwyn was already in it but 2010 saw me saying goodbye to her and my zoo job in Florida as Eric applied for and got a job with Boeing and they moved us to Washington (for the first time)

This was the year that Cheri's house got hit by lightning and she was desperate to find a place for all three horses. I was offered Gwyn and within the month she was shipped to me, arriving a few days after her birthday in May. This picture was taken the day she arrived.

This year was when Kaylee arrived. Gwyn immediately treated her like part of the family.

Having a young baby kept serious activities to a minimum but the barn I was at was great at providing fun clinics. We tried cattle sorting and never had to leave!

This was the year I tried endurance for the first time! We both had a blast, doing a 15 the first day and a 25 the next.

This year was marked by our move to Michigan and fulfilling a lifelong dream of having a horse in my backyard. This picture was the first day Gwyn and my new donkeys spent at home. Poor scraggly Arwen. She's loving life in her new home!

Hazel was the highlight of this year and once again, Gwyn proved her weight in gold and immediately decided Hazel was hers to protect. She apparently likes nuzzling babies.

 This year I spent working as a microbiologist and enjoying life on the farm. Like watching Hazel share dinner at feeding time or torturing the animals with a neighing demon skeletal pony.

This was the year I finally got to take Gwyn around a cross country course, returning to my Pony Club roots, and we had a blast. It also really emphasized that we needed more dressage work.

And now this year. We moved back to Washington and this time I moved Gwyn myself and that's best represented by this picture by Devil's Tower with Gwyn.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Working Backwards and Top Down

As previously mentioned:

Rebecca Farm, BN AEC August 31-September 4 2022

Which means I need:
1st or 2nd in any USEA/USEF 3 day or Horse Trials or
2 3rd places in any qualifying event or 
1st-5th at any regional championship
I have to complete 3 recognized horse trials in the qualifying time period
I cannot compete at Training or above (not a problem)
I need to declare Amateur status


It also means I need a membership in USEA for 2021 AND 2022 ($$)

The above competition qualifiers will likely take place from end of May 2021 through mid August 2022 if the pattern holds steady.

In Washington state I will likely have these rated events available to me:
Spokane Sport Horse Farm Horse Trials  Washington 4.5 hours May and October
Equestrian's Institute Horse Trials Washington 2 hours May and September
Aspen Farms Horse Trials Washington 2.5 hours June
Inavale Farm Horse Trials Oregon 5.5 hours  June
Whidbey Island Horse Trials Washington 2 hours July

Some of them I will have available twice as qualifying opportunities, based on the date range. There will be lots of opportunity to achieve the three completions necessary. The harder task will be the placings. For that I can only do my best. But apparently I -can- appeal if I'm an amateur in an open division and those placed above me are professionals. I'm not banking on that.

So knowing that placings are obviously a huge deal, and some of that is out of my control, the next thing I can do is make sure that Gwyn and I are the best damn Beginner Novice pair ever. There are lots of local schooling shows that will get us some extensive show experience. Plus a cross country course minutes from the barn that barnmates will drag me to (and they know this is a goal of mine)

So, by this time December 2020 I need to have a horse that can:

Maintain a canter around a cross country course
Have a relaxed, controlled canter in a dressage court
Be rateable and on the bit
Be soft and supple in all gaits

We're achieving Forward Down and Out!

If I've got those, the jumping will follow. I already know she can bomb around a starter course no issue.

I, as a rider, need to have:

Better endurance in my cardio fitness
Steadier contact through the bit
Clearer aids

This is all well and great, but now I need to break down those into how I'm going to achieve those December 2020 goals

Goals for me:
Strength training at least 1x a week to start
Cardio at least 1x a week to start
Yoga at least 1x a week (currently at 2x a week)
Track food with intentional weight loss in mind
Save money each month for show costs, figure out budget for what I need to save monthly

Goals for Gwyn:
Riding 3x a week, one including lessons
Lunging 1x a week in addition to riding
Add in core work plan for Gwyn (post on that soon)
Endurance conditioning on hilly trails
3 Limited Distance endurance rides
1 50 mile ride at the end of the season

All of this means I need to commit more to going to the barn with Hazel in tow. If I can, I'm going to get her signed up for a second day of preschool a week but I'm not sure if Eric will be down for that. I absolutely need to commit to the Y more so I can get my other fitness goals.

So I'll likely plan out my January now and break down what I'm doing when and have it planned out.

When you make the same faces as your pony

Monday, December 16, 2019

3 year Goal Planning

USEA just announced the 2021 and likely 2022 location of the AECs.  Rebecca Farm in Montana will most likely be the host of the 2022 AECs so I think I have a new goal. Rebecca Farm won't be that far of a drive for me (compared to Kentucky, lol) and if I start preparations now, what I'm considering won't be impossible, just improbable and I can work with those odds.

I'm going to aim to qualify at BN for AECs in 2022 on Gwyn. There's a ton of in state events I can attend for qualifying. It means endurance in the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022 will likely be on the back burner to prioritize eventing, but if I'm getting Gwyn fit for endurance, that will transfer over to eventing. Plus all the work I'm putting in now to strengthen her up will help with this goal.

My goal for 2020 is to try a 50 mile endurance ride in October. I've got 3 LDs on the calendar and my fourth endurance ride I've got penciled in will be a 50. It's an ideal move up event since the October ride will be cooler and mostly flat, ideal Gwyn conditions.

These are going to be my big goals with Gwyn for now. They're not impossible goals. They just require hard work that starts now. So I'm going to start that hard work now.

 And I'm putting it out there for accountability. I want to go. On this spotty Goober of a horse. We can do it.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Lesson again

Cortney and Robin were off in Arizona this weekend so I didn't think I'd have a lesson with Jim. However, he texted me and said if I could be ready at Bridle Trails by 1pm again I could get a group rate since he'd have other people there at 11 and 12. I was down for this plan. I 'earned' my time off by tidying up the backyard. Due to how much travel is involved in me getting to lessons it ends up being a nearly all day affair especially because I end up including general housekeeping chores while I'm out at the barn like tack cleaning.

 It was a fairly temperate winter day with temps in the upper 40s and low 50s F and no rain while riding!

I have a couple big takeaways that I wanted to get written down so I don't forget them and so I can implement at home.

First: That gosh darned inside leg to outside rein is magical when it happens. Use the inside leg to ask for bend and push her into my right hand but DON'T LOSE CONTACT WITH HER MOUTH.  Keeping that coordinated results in a horse that will stretch down into contact.  Make more moments and get them consistently occurring.
 Second: Keep communication with Gwyn always varied, even if it's feather light changes so she keeps her attention on me.

Third: When asking for rein back, Gwyn WILL respond to a feather light touch of my calf and when I use that rather than blaring at her with my heels (and spurs now) I get a very calm, slow rein back with a low head. I just need to keep better contact with her mouth with higher hands than I think I need.
 Fourth: She is getting stronger in canter. We are now actually getting canter strides when I ask her. If I'm practicing, ask for the trot after the first three canter strides. The first three strides are going to be the best quality and everything will degrade (for now) until she's stronger. When cueing for canter in the corner, counter-bend her to the outside to encourage her to pick up the correct lead.
 Conclusions I have drawn on my own:
Continue to work on strengthening her hind end with turns on the forehand. Canter departs will also help. Research other exercises to do. Enjoy trails with LOTS of hills :D
 It was chilly enough and she was damp enough that I tossed a wool cooler on her for the ride home. Then she got to make kissy faces with one of the thoroughbreds while cleaned my tack, some of which was starting to mildew. I need to remember to bring out a new damp-rid for my trailer tack room.

It was a good lesson. I felt like a much more effective rider than I have lately and she was being really responsive to my seat and leg aids, which is DEFINITELY something that we didn't have at the start of summer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Lessons Update

Lessons have been more sporadic lately, though I did get a lesson in the Sunday after Thanksgiving at Bridle Trails. Traveling all the way up to me for Monday evening has been wearing on Jim and Cortney and I think we'll be rearranging lesson day to be daylight hours. As much as having them come to me was nice, I totally get that it's a rough drive to do weekly, at rush hour. Traffic is horrendous out here.

Combining the sporadic lessons with the holiday and then some mystery gastric thing I had, I haven't ridden much, and the last time I rode Gwyn I felt like a stiff board getting on and boy was that discouraging and I didn't make it out more. The Sunday lesson was early afternoon and a new friend, Robin, joined us. She's also an endurance rider that Cortney met and I definitely like her, she's a great person to hang out with. She came to Thanksgiving too!

Her gelding has been cleared for light riding after an injury, so she joined us at Bridle Trails. We planned on a 1pm meet time that of course I ended up biffing when I found my truck tire was low on air AND there was a line at the gas station for using the air pump.

Because I'd been so stiff last time I rode I made sure I stretched my hip flexors before getting on. Note to self, do that before putting on spurs. Lesson learned.
Gwyn recognizes the sound of Cortney's truck, LOL
 Gwyn was a bit sassy to start off so I made sure to lunge (see aforementioned over a week off and nice cool weather). Lunging I found she's able to maintain a balanced canter for a lot longer, which is really encouraging. It doesn't even get strung out and flat. I'm really excited for when that translates under saddle. Her brain seemed relatively well screwed in so I hopped on.
 Jim's lessons involve theory as well as practical application. So we have occasional huddles to talk about why movements are useful and how different aids work. Gwyn and I even did some canter under saddle and her good direction was really good!

He and I discussed her weakness in the canter is because we need to strengthen the hind leg that pushes off into the canter. Her weak direction is to the left/counter clockwise, so that's her right hind that needs strengthening work.

Turns on the forehand work on strength in that same leg as you ask them to step under themselves. This is reflected in how her better turns are when we turn counter clockwise because it's the left hind stepping under itself.

Additionally, I need to think of exercises like turn on the forehand as a weight lifting exercise. I shouldn't be schooling it endlessly because like with weightlifting, eventually you hit exhaustion where the muscles just can't perform anymore. I need to come into it with a sets and reps mindset.  So do a quarter to half turn, then move forward to reward, relax and encourage the downward stretch. Then repeat a little bit later.
 We also practiced our square halts and feeling where the horse is standing without looking and once identified, fixing the halt stance. If I focus on it, I correctly identify her stance 9 out of 10 times. I found that since we were in a dressage arena, if I practiced my halts as though I were in a dressage test by going down the center line, it gave me a target point to halt at and my preparation for halts were much smoother. We ended with a really good, square halt and I was really proud.
 After our lesson we hit the trails together. It had been raining through the lesson but the trails are amazingly well groomed and had minimal mud. We kept it to a walk and did between 3 and 4 miles in about an hour.
She had the biggest, swingiest walk as soon as she realized we weren't done and were walking trailward.

Time in the woods, even if a bit wet and cloudy, was so good. And it was in the best company. Cortney told me she had friends waiting for me, and she was right, hahah. 

This park is surrounded by encroaching city. It is a gem.

I didn't get home until after sunset (4pm this time of year, lol) Then I just hung out at the barn chatting with folks. I like having this social aspect again. That was definitely something I didn't realize I'd miss as much when we got our own place in Michigan.

Blogger Gift Exchange!

 Of all things I got an email through my company's website, which I wasn't expecting telling me to expect a delivery. It really threw me for a loop, so Katherine of Virtual Brush Box, I'd like to apologize for that! I had totally forgotten about the exchange, especially since I was one of the few people who somehow got their match lost in transit and was still waiting to hear from Tracy!

I had this book on my wish list and it's definitely got things in it that I should be working on, I'm already half way through reading it and no surprise, many of the exercises that Jim has me working on are some of the basics that the book talks about. Gosh, Amy, listen to your trainer...

Anyway, thank you thank you! I really do love it and they break down the exercises in a really well thought out way for my learning style. The pictures and diagrams are fantastic!
Oh it's describing Gwyn.... "bad steering, fussy contact, high head, lack of progress over time..."

Getting stronger though!

A huddle to discuss the difference between strengthening and flexibility and what exercises do what when we're riding