Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Marc Grandia Clinic: Ditches and Coffins

 I was really excited to talk about this. Especially because I actually have AMAZING media thanks to a friend. But then I woke up to a fucking comment about weight on my IG where they grossly overestimated what I weigh. I just deleted it rather than engage, but fuck. Way to ruin a good mood. I was in such a positive headspace with constructive things that I could work on and improve. 

So understand that I am sharing these in an absolutely wretched state of mind. I don't mind being picked apart for my equitation or form over fences. Those are things I can fucking change way more easily than my weight right now.  And I'm just... ugh. There's just a lot of self doubt and spiraling self hatred in my head about this. And there shouldn't be. There really fucking shouldn't be. 


I board 5 minutes down the road from Polestar, a local eventing facility owned by Meika Decher. It's so close and I've never been there and I really should have by now. You can trailer in and flat on the cross country course for a small fee and by notifying Meika. She also has trails on the property. To use the cross country course you need an instructor. 

For this, I signed up for 2 days of a 3 part clinic with Marc Grandia, who has a training facility a town or two over. The 3 sessions were spread out over 3 months, so June, July and August. I couldn't do June thanks to moving houses, but I snagged a spot for July and August.

A light tan spotted horse with purple matching tack stands at a horse trailer in front of a hay bag.

We were in small groups and trailer parking was basically at the start of the cross country field so there was very limited clustering of people. I operated solely out of my trailer and even had my camping toilet with me to minimize contact. It felt very safe. 

I was in the third or fourth group of the day. In fact, I was arriving to grab Gwyn when the barn owner was returning from her clinic session with him. We started off with establishing a steady trot and canter in the field. Gwyn was AMPED up. She wanted to gallop. She knew it was something fun we were doing and was ready to just go hogwild. So our canter had some steering issues BUT I was able to implement the things I worked on in lessons to stop letting her blow through my right aids and for the most part was able to do broad left turns at the canter, lol. But if she got too strong in the beginning, I really only have control if I tightly turn her right. There's still work to be done.

We started over a small log and BOY, suddenly the game was on! The focus to the first jump was staying straight and steady. Then we added in a couple more to string together a small course. 

Because these were smaller jumps, and Gwyn was having some straightness issues, Marc had me focus on coming in in a nice trot and encouraging a forward canter on the other side. As Gwyn got a little tired (haha) and I got my sea legs back, so to speak, I built up the confidence to string some of the jumps together with cantering completely. 
I have a weird mental hangup where I don't fully trust Gwyn to jump out of a canter yet. I'm not sure what's going on with that, but I do know that we just need to keep doing it so that I can outweigh the hesitation in my brain with good experience and examples. Maybe once I feel like I have more steering control? And that will only come with more cantering time in an open field.
Once we'd finished stringing a few fences together and establishing steady pacing and straightness into and away from jumps, we added in the ditches and coffins. Specifically working with the natural elevation changes and maintaining good rhythm despite downhill or uphill striding. 
The baby ditches/coffins for my level were simple rectangles of landscape timbers with stapled landscape fabric on the bottom. There was no depth to ours to start, just the illusion of depth. Gwyn handled these fine. We had more troubles being straight to jumps than anything. I'm seeing my right size weakness magnified out on the cross country course, so I'm filing that away for things to work on at home.
I'm also a little bit ahead of the motion. I'm not sinking into my heels enough which would help me fold more. So that's also something I'm working on at home on the flat. Lots of two point and really redeveloping a better base to jump out of in shorter stirrups. This did lead to two falls for more, though thankfully both were a roll and I was on my feet. None were head impacts and I definitely appreciated my vest. 

Despite the falls, it was such a great time. Blazing hot and I could feel Gwyn losing some power over the jumps as we moved from more starter level heights to true BN as she got tired. She still had power on the flat and was not content to just stand and wait our turn, so I'm crediting our endurance conditioning for that. She can trot for hours, but I know that her conditioning won't fully convert to jumping condition, especially in the heat. I rode conservatively and we didn't do everything everyone else did, which Marc was on board with. My legs were getting to be jelly anyway. 

We ended on a really strong note, tying several fences together and cantering the course, far better than our start! And again, my confidence rose as the day progressed, even though we were both hot and tired. It was such an empowering clinic, I'm really excited for the August one, which will be on conditioning and pacing! 

In the meantime, I intend to return to Polestar specifically to use their fields for cantering work. Gwyn feels better balanced in the open like this where our turns can be wide and sweeping, rather than tight and controlled in an arena. I would like to get to a point where we can canter around the perimeter of the field and that's going to require more stamina from me. 
Really, this gave me more of a desire to push forward with my AEC goal in 2022. And these clinics are a good stepping stone on the way there. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


At this point I'm finding it easier on my time and commitment to use the trainers that come to the barn. These are typically the ones my barn owner is using as she trains for eventing (she's moving up to training). Plus the BO typically schedules for groups of lessons so we all split a travel fee which makes them overall very affordable. 

All this to say, we had a jump focused lesson on Sunday! Since that was Kaylee's birthday, I didn't want to be at the barn ALL day, so I chose the 9 am lesson slot. I was the first out there. Gwyn had already been turned out with her breakfast hay and willingly left it to come to me at the gate. It was sunny and in the 60s, perfect temperature.

Mismatched brand, but matchy purple gear! 

Freshly groomed arena too
I was mounting up when Trainer S arrived. She seemed nice and got to work setting up the jumps which the barn owner had moved into the arena. She asked for a brief history of me and Gwyn and explained a little about her teaching style. She's very big on rider form and correctness. I let her know that Gwyn's education in jumping was very basic to nonexistent and I wanted her to develop a good sense of how to approach a jump.
I found her to be a bit of a mixed toolkit instructor. But what I LOVED was how brutal she was with my position and jumping form. She almost immediately had me raise my stirrups a hole (OUCH) and then proceeded to pester me about my heels, especially my right heel. I like to post from my toes. I'm not sinking into my heel as much as I should. When I apply leg my foot raises and swings back. So there was a huge biomechanic component that we worked on to make me more correct and secure.

To warm up my goal was to get Gwyn a bit more energetic and less dressage ploddy. This was the morning after all the personal fireworks of the 4th and Gwyn set the tone for all the horses today. They were TIRED and slow. It took a lot of effort on my part to perk her up and even trying some canter didn't wake her up like it has previously.
I was pleased, however, to find that my form over fences is still there in muscle memory from being a kid. We started with a set of trot poles, then moved to a simple trot pole into cross rail. My first task was to get Gwyn energetic to the jump to get her actually considering a jump rather than a big trot cavaletti. Eventually we strung a course together. It was all right turns but had two bending line approaches. I totally biffed the course a couple times, thanks ADHD, but Gwyn was a superstar.
She was a tired Goober when we were done. We did the final, middle cross rail once more and she just barely trotted it and immediately walked. Trainer S wanted once more but we had just finished the round and it was a good round on the course so I insisted on ending on a good note and letting her walk. There was no issue with that. 

So far, I like Trainer S. I think she'll be good for me and Gwyn to incorporate something with a little more technical difficulty. And it's a good step towards AECs 2022! She definitely thinks we could bomb around a BN course really well. And that's what I've got my sights set on. She even has experience with working with Friesians and F-crosses so she knows the struggle with that weak hind end and tendency to just be super front heavy.
I stuck around and watched a barn mate's lesson and took some pictures and video. The day was starting to get warm and I had to get home to celebrate a certain newly 8 year old's birthday.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Stress Relief

With the looming deadline for moving out of our rental having passed, I informed E that I was going to be at the barn on July 1st and to not expect me home after work until well after kid bedtime. I had to work late and finish sample testing so it was a good thing that my originally scheduled 6:30pm dressage lesson had been cancelled due to trainer E's truck breakdown. I arrived just before 6:30, there was a consistent light rain and surprisingly, no one else. 

It was lovely.

This was my work outfit because why not. It's technically lab appropriate attire

I didn't super groom her because she was really wet. I did scrape off what loose hair was remaining from shed. Then I picked through her mane and tail. Her tail REALLY needed it. 
Wet mare who wants cookies

Why should I make happy ears for you? You didn't come out for TWO WEEKS

Okay fine for the small shattered phone device

Quarantine purchases included a LeMieux. I love it.

She was... bouncy... while lunging. Though I think adding in the time off, plus cool weather. Goober was feeling good. I warmed her up and then really focused on getting a good, balanced canter each side out of her. I didn't use side reins this time because I wanted to ride but I might pull them out next time. 

Trainer E's recommendation is that we keep the canter on the lunge line to build strength. I know if I go back in time on this blog I'll see that we have made progress on canter. It used to be she couldn't even do a full canter circle on the lunge line. 

Some mushrooms growing in the manure cart

The ride itself was low key. She had some issues standing still at the mounting block but she also knew that I had cookies in my pocket. She only got the cookie after standing still AND letting me get on though. 
I felt stiff and out of sorts. I really just needed the quiet time on her. I focused on the elements of things I learned in my last dressage lesson to see if I could recreate that feel. By the time I'd decided I was done and should be starting to wrap things up, Gwyn had dried into that soft, fluffy clean feeling that rain brings.
The rest of the barn was being brought in by the time we were done. She apparently REALLY loves this 3 year old the barn owner recently bought. Like, babies him, likes him. 

And for some random work shit: 
Sometimes being a microbiologist means dealing with high pressure steam condensers. I feel badass.

Always wear appropriate PPE for the job. Steam means goggles AND a face shield, COVID-19 means a mouth mask (though I'm not near anyone in this picture so not really necessary)

Blurry because I'm taking a picture through a ziploc bag because I'm in one of the CLEANEST rooms at work. And this is my clean room outfit. Also why I have NO sympathy for mask complainers.

That picture is me in plant clothes, which are single wear, company provided nylon blue pajamas, basically that DO NOT BREATH. Then you put on a clean body suit, also made of nylon/polyester over that that's a giant onesie. Then bootie covers and reglove.

THEN you add a sterile onsie made out of pure plastic (the white) and a sterile hood, sterile mask (and it has plastic on the outside too so it breathes less), sterile bootie covers and two pairs of sterile gloves. That my goggles aren't fogging up is a god damn miracle in that picture.

If I can wear that, AND PUT IT ON WITHOUT CONTAMINATING IT, you can wear your fucking mask. Wear your mask.