Rider improving – horse tiring

Piedmont Jumper Classic – Day 3

I checked the schedule and entries were even lighter than Friday, so I headed over at 9:20 a.m. They were still in the Low Adults, but the Take 2 TBs were the same course, but at a meter, so I could walk that one.  I texted Katie, and we met to do the course walk.

The lines today weren’t walking quite as exactly as yesterday.  I was walking  two of the bending lines with bend and getting half strides, every time. 8 1/2 or 9? 6 1/2 or 7?  So, Katie helped me, we walked a slightly different path and straightened the 6 1/2 to be 6 and the other was a 9.  The last line was a vertical/oxer to a 4, a little short.

I watched a couple of rounds, then went to get Neuf ready.  I felt good, we had time to walk around, he felt relaxed, and then we went into the warm up.  He used to be super reactive in the warm up, oncoming horses would send him into a buck/spin/bolt, well, that was back.  Usually it is grays, but today, there were a couple of horses that were up and a bit unpredictable and he did NOT want to pass those, and especially not thread the needle.  And there was a super, cute pony in there with us.  With a cute child on top.  That was pretty scary as well.

I was doing pretty good getting forward, then someone would pass us, or cross our path, and there would be an attempt to spin.  At one point, I was off center, lost my damned stirrup again, but did regain the heavier, metal one faster, and he was jumping well.

I went in and had a decent pace, and he stopped at the first oxer.  I corrected him, and went forward enough to get that line in 8, not 9.  The round was pretty good, until the last line, he stopped at the last fence.  I think I might have held a tiny bit too much at the end, but I was surprised at  the stop.  I said “What?!!” And that was the last fence and our second stop, so we were eliminated.

Katie asked what happened at fence 1, and I said I felt him suck back 2 strides out, but he ignored my leg to go more forward.  Then, the last fence, not sure, must have held a tiny bit too much, but she thought he was surprised at it.

I also realized that this was the first time Neuf has shown 3 days in a row.  Usually he would only do two days.  Either Wed/Thur or Thur/Fri.  There might be a bit of fatigue starting to impact his performance.  He is 7, but we don’t do the big shows all that often.  I think the Loudoun Benefit in June was his last big show.  He’s been to 3 schooling shows and some lessons, but that is not the same as a multi-day, multi-ring show with tents, spectators, etc.

Again, I had moments of self doubt, should I do another round?  The first one wasn’t good, the fences would be higher…but Katie reassured me that the height was NOT the issue, and I know that he is usually better the second time.  So, I mentioned that he was being very reactive in the warm up, so her plan was to go do a couple more fences while they were resetting the course for the .90 meter and just go to the gate when the ring was empty.  That worked well, since there is often a gap in the order people sign up to ride.  I had a mostly empty warmup, warned Katie that if we did too many jumps I’d have no horse left, and so we kept it short, and went in after a beautiful oxer.

She told me to go show Neuf that last fence when we first went in, and he was looking at it, so that was a good plan.  I had one rail when I moved up a bit too much between 5 a/b and 6, so no blue ribbon, but it was smooth, we were well within time allowed, and so it was a good end to a multi-day show.

While the third day was not the day I expected, it was really good to go back again and find out how things are different.

I was surprised at the reactivity to the other horses in warm up, that appears to be an evasion.  I’ll keep this in mind and if we’re at a 4 day show, maybe he gets one day off of showing in there, show 2, off 1, show 1…or something like that.  It will take a while to figure out, these shows are expensive, so we only do a handful a year.

The knee rolls may have helped, I didn’t notice them, but I shouldn’t.  The heavier stirrups definitely helped, and at some point I do want to try a few different jumping saddles, but since those are very expensive, I need to save up for that.  The current Albion fits him well, it fits me, I want to see if I’d feel more secure in a different one.

I’d hoped to get to 1.0 meter by the end of the year, and I might, but I need to find a reasonably close show, if not, there is next year and meanwhile, I’ll keep working on the things that make the fence size irrelevant, but when I’m comfortable at a meter there are a lot more showing options available, and definitely more weekend options available.

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Found Forward – lost way

Piedmont Jumper Classic – Day 2

I’d shifted my work schedule around, I’d put in that I was going to be out of office, but would possibly come in, since it was a local show, so I could still stay ahead of email and get some things done, but Friday ended up being a whole day off.

I was able to check the ring status on Horse Shows Online, which has a quirky interface, but mostly works, and I saw the ring was running pretty quick.  This was the first year the show existed so entries were fairly light.  People didn’t know it was here.  I left the farm around 10:30, sent a text to Martin, and found out he couldn’t get there until 12:30 or so.  It was looking like the course walk would happen around 11:30, so I would either walk on my own or tag up with someone else.  I bumped into Katie Swindler and asked if she had time to do the course walk with me, and she did!

The .80 meter class was nice.  All forward, galloping lines, good striding.  The first fence was the oxer we’d had troubles with on Thursday, so that worried me a bit.  Good space to make the turn to the next line, 2 to 3 in six strides, left turn to 4 a/b and 5 to 5, around to the right to 6 a/b with 6 strides to 7, continue right to 8/9 a 6 stride line, back left to the final line in 4 on the judge’s side.  Ride forward out of the turns, think swinging through those turns.

An hour later I am warmed up and it is time to go in and I have forward, we have a good pace.  He stuck a bit at the first fence, but nothing compared to the day before, came around, did 2/3 in 6 strides and turned right.  I quickly realized my error, had the presence of mind to at least not cross my path (add 4 more faults for that!) kept a good pace and rode 4 a/b and 5 to fence 5 and Neuf decides bucking is a great idea facing into the tent.  I lose a stirrup, I get off center, and then I am struggling to get my stirrup back, I end up trotting, get my stirrup back about 2 strides before 6 a/b.  I decide that we aren’t going to be making time, and I can’t power Neuf up fast enough, so I circled, took the 4 faults, and then finished the course getting all the strides right!!!!

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit rattled by the bucking and almost falling off, I momentarily thought of scratching the .90 meter.  But I didn’t.  Martin got me some more water, the course was reset and I did 2 fences and went in again, earlier than initially planned, since Martin had to walk his course in the main ring.

This time was great.  Although in 8/9 I had seven?!? strides, not 6, so I knew to add and rode the final line well.  We had a clear round!!!!  Blue ribbon for Neuf & Mel…ok, this one was for me, because when Martin rides, Neuf gets a lot more ribbons.

Lessons learned: The lightweight stirrups have to go.  They are too light, they bounce around and I struggle to much to get them back, when I lose them.  Back to metal Fillis stirrups while I look at other options.

Homework: practice dropping and regaining stirrup at trot and canter, that way when he adds in some bucking, it is a more practiced move.

I am really happy that I was able to ride through the bucks, and stayed and did the second course.  I decided to go add the .80 and .90 meter for Saturday, knowing Martin was not going to be there, but perhaps Ashley could come.  Ashley had booked lessons since I hadn’t realized the .80/.90 classes were offered and I’d thought I wouldn’t show, so I texted Katie if she had time to help me, she would, so that was the plan.

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Riding with the handbrake on

Neuf at Piedmont Jumper Classic – Day 1

The plan was to do one class in the .90 meter on Thursday, one at 1.0 meter following, then do the Low Amateur Adults (1.0 meter) the next three days.

I felt ok, not terribly nervous, but a bit nervous, we’d been having fun at schooling shows, and back in June, our last rated show, we felt good at .80 and .90.

Martin & I did the course walk, it was straight forward, good lines, and he said that sometimes the horses are up in the ring, so I should be prepared to sit up if he was “too going”.

Warm up was pretty good.  And then I went in the ring, and rode with the handbrake on.

Neuf did his best, he carted me over fences when we had no pace.  But, on a horse with a massive stride, I added a stride to every line I think.  And at the final line, a big oxer to a vertical, one stride, he said “can’t do that from this pace”.  I circled around and came again, and he cleared the oxer and said “can’t do that vertical from here either”.  So, we were eliminated.  I made a half hearted “jump from this walk step” request which only made the jump crew work, and was eliminated on the second stop.

I summed the day  up with “Pat the horse, kick the rider”.

I wasn’t initially going to put this video up, but I am, and I am also going to say that it isn’t for an internet riding lesson.  I have great instructors, they tell me what to do, and I try and get out there and do it. so keep any “you’re riding is awful” comments to yourself.

I decided that it would be foolhardy to go in and attempt a 1.0 meter class when I’d just failed at .90 meter, and instead I did a rider change, and had Martin get on him to give him a good ride.

Given the way the show schedule was organized, I decided to scratch out of all the Low Adult 1.0 meter classes (first thing in the morning) and drop back to .80 meter and .90 meter (last classes of the day Fri/Sat) to see if I could find my mojo.

Analysis:  I was being too defensive in the air, which only slows Neuf down more.  I fell off a couple of weeks ago after Neuf overjumped a cavaletti and took advantage of my loss of balance and I was not as over that as I should have been.  I also felt like I was going super fast.  I wasn’t, but I am still fearful when Neuf goes forward sometimes.  Oh, and my back had been hurting a lot earlier in the week (a 5 hour flight tweaked it the week before), particularly when Neuf would kick out, so I was worried it would hurt.  I took Advil in the morning before the show and my back was fine.

Homework: I decided I should go find the velcro in knee rolls for my saddle and put them in.   This might make me feel more secure on landing.

Future Homework: ride out and canter Neuf out and get comfortable and confident galloping.  Consider sports psychologist for the forward fear issues.   Also, continue back exercises and pain management.


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Dressage lesson & jumping show

Today, I was ambitious! I had a dressage lesson with Inga over at my friend’s farm, and a boarder also brought her horse for a lesson, then Neuf needed to get out, and there was a jumper show over in Millwood, and now that we’re doing more than puddle jumpers, I figured there would be time to get there and do both!

It all worked out.

First up, Bali’s lesson report.

Bali is sound, her 3 weeks of walking rest with some bute, which is what the doctor ordered, worked. She felt good, had a bit of distraction because Scuff was over in the trailer, but nothing too bad.

In our walk warm up, we worked on getting her to lift her shoulders, really stay on the bit, using stellung on both sides. In trot, we went back to that shallow serpentine, making it more shallow, and really focusing on moving the shoulders, really controlling them. Right bend is Bali’s hard side, so we did some turn on the forehand around Inga, keeping her shoulders lifted, then trotting some, doing a modified turn on the forehand in trot, changed direction a few times, didn’t need as much to the left.

Then we did some long, half passes, focusing on the shoulders, keeping her between both legs going forward. Volte at the end of some, at the beginning of others. Interestingly, I have reached the point where my hands are too still, they aren’t following enough, so I worked on that, more to the right. I really need to feel her taking the contact, then giving that following hand for her to move into it. We did some trot half pass zigzag work, centerline to B back to center line, or rail to X, back to rail.

At canter, we did walk turn on the forehand, then cantered a few times, then down the long side. A few circles, some long side, then a few half passes, keeping the bend through the turn staying in counter canter, then doing 2 flying changes across the diagonal. In the changes, I worked on staying relaxed, not trying for as much power. It was a good lesson.

Then while my boarder had her lesson I got Bali cleaned up, the trailer picked, wiped down her tack and loaded her up. This took me most of the lesson, so I didn’t get to see the ride. I called over to the jumper show, they were in the 2’9″ division, so I said I was on my way. We scooted back to the farm, I dropped off Bali, quickly vacuumed Neuf, swapped saddles in the trailer, and off I went.

The timing worked out perfectly. I went down and registered, got my number, walked the course as they were raising it to the 3′-3’3″ Adult Amateur division, there were a couple of odd lines, I figured I’d watch someone else go. I got Neuf out and warmed up, went in and it was time for me to go.

The first round was clear! Not as smooth as I’d like, but a clear round! We were second.

The second class was power and speed and we had a rail during the power phase.

The third round would have had a jump off, but we had an awful fence and a rail, but we still placed.

We were Reserve, that was fun!

I need to work on staying in two point, and keeping more pace. I also need to get those lead changes sooner.

I was home by 3:15 in the afternoon!

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Neuf – Warmblood Retriever

Show report below, but I’m most pleased that Neuf has finally figured out how to hand me fly masks, from the ground, when I’m in the saddle!  We were so close a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t mess with it, but did think about it a lot.  We went out today to spread fly predators and hunt down two fly masks.  Spied the first one and came back for it after I was done sprinkling fly predators.

Stopped at the fly  mask and said “Neuf, can you pick that up and give it to me?”  And he reached down, picked it up, swung his head over to my right foot, waited for me to have hold of the mask, then let go!  I squealed with delight, telling him what a clever horse he is, and gave him 2 carrot pieces!

Then, it was out to do the second bag of predators and retrieve the second mask.  Got to that one and he did the same thing!  Woot!!!!

Next up, picking up other things.  Ball caps, whips/crops, perhaps a glove.  The things that you sometimes drop when you’re riding.  Bell boots might be useful as well, the horses lose a lot of those.

Neuf, my Warmblood Retriever.  

I entered a combined test at Morningside  this past weekend.  Novice Test A.  I printed it the day I entered, read the test, rode it the next morning.  Asked Tori for a lesson, to get some polish, and off I went.

I set off, not feeling too nervous.  I arrived, found a place to squeeze in my trailer, walked over for my number, tacked a relaxed Neuf up and climbed on.  We went up to the dressage arenas, told them our number, I had 16 minutes to warm up, which was perfect, since the heat and humidity were insane!

Rode a nice test, sadly no video, got the less frequent “your hands move too much” speech from the judge, which I smiled and shrugged.  I ended up with a 34.5, so other than one mistake (Neuf cantered one step at the walk-trot upward transition) it was a respectable test.  Bouncing hands and all.  Honestly, I was so thrilled with his relaxation and listening, workmanlike attitude that she could have said I was riding like a monkey and should never ride again and I’d have shrugged.

I went off and found Martin, found out there was a fair amount of time left before they raised the jump course to Novice height, learned the course, hopped off, got my water, visited with friends…then finally got back on to do jumping warm up.

I don’t love the jumping warmup at Morningside, it is on their schooling race track, people walk in front of the jumps constantly to go to the cars, making you pull up, the track is too skinny to keep a good pace when you reverse, so I never did get a great rhythm going for the jumping, but I wasn’t nervous.  This was a soft Novice level…maybe one fence at 2’11”.  Unfortunately, as we stood in line to go into the ring, someone noticed Neuf had lost a shoe!  The footing there is excellent and soft, and I hadn’t noticed the shoe missing on the track, so, I opted to go ahead and ride my course.

That lack of rhythm in warm up?  It showed, I wasn’t forward enough, didn’t get to finish the path I’d wanted to take before the bell rang.  I thought I destroyed the first fence.   Neuf paused, went crooked, ran into the fence, an oxer, I said “go”, he went, I heard fence sounds, and was “what was that?”

Everyone said “Keep going!”…so, we kept going.  Things got a little smoother, chipped in at 5, took a long spots to 6, roll back to 7 was so so, but we got it done.  As we finished, I noticed that they’d already put fence 1 back together.  How odd, they aren’t usually that quick during the schooling shows.  There was an accidental stop to the video, so the rest of the round is a second video.

Since it  had not been as smooth as I’d like, I opted to go in and school it again (allowed, but not for scoring), and the round was much smoother, more forward, but we had a rail at fence 7.

Later, when I went to pay for my extra round and get my test sheet, I asked if I’d placed, thinking it was a nope…but they said the judge marked me with 0 jumping faults.  Huh?  I  could have sworn that I’d demolished that fence. I took my 5th place ribbon and  headed home.  Later, I thought to watch the video…and I’ll be…somehow, Neuf left that first fence up.

Bali is still on low-impact, walk work for one more week, I did do a very short, test trot yesterday and she felt good, but it was less than 2 minutes and we only have a few more days.  We’ve been doing a combination of walking around that feels like Bubba’s shrimp recipes in Forrest Gump, walking with a child in front, or walking around on a trail loop, or walking and doing squares, walking haunches in, walking shoulder in, walking renvers, walking half pass, walk pirouettes, medium walk, collected walk, extended walk, free walk, walking serpentines to focus on bend change.


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Jumping more sticks

I had an early jumping lesson this morning before work.  I hadn’t taken Neuf out since our super, fun, Fisher-Price “My first XC school” on the 4th of July.

After Neuf’s lovely ride on Saturday, Sunday was a decent ride, but not amazing like the day before.  For a variety of reasons, including heat, bugs & humidity, I decided to not react to laziness with the level of intensity that would create kicking out and bucking, but give me forward, and just left it as an “okay” ride, which is actually pretty awesome in the grand scheme of things.

But, I knew the laziness would need to be addressed today, and had I been riding alone, at home, I would have done it on the lunge, but in a lesson, I felt ok with it.  He did get a bit stuck, but there was no where near as much warm up as on Saturday, but I stayed in two point for a long time, off his back, until he was really motoring forward.

The exercises were simple.  3 cavaletti, one stride apart, with the middle one offset. The cavaletti are 8′ long, so offsetting the middle one allowed for a very-straight, 3 stride line of 2, or a very-straight, line of 3 one strides.

The next exercise was 3 fences set at 2 strides apart, steep crossrail, to a vertical, to an oxer (eventually).  After doing all those, we then played around with angles, as if in a jump off.  So did figure 8 like figures across the oxer, loop back on the other lead to the vertical, back to the other lead to the steep crossrail, back and forth.

On getting my right to left lead change, I need to really get his haunches in.  He swings them out, and then isn’t straight, so can’t change.  I wasn’t focused enough on the haunches, but too much on the shoulders.  So I’ll work on that.

An excellent way to start a Monday.

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Intention…and playing with my pony

I have been reading a book recently, and it has reminded me that intention matters. It isn’t a riding book, but a book about leadership, which, when you think about it…riding is about leadership, so maybe it is a riding book!

Neuf and I are in a good place, but I’m still struggling with his getting “stuck” in deep corners, particularly going left. I’m pretty sure this is a weakness, as he warms up out of it, and it has been getting better. We still usually have at least one kick-out/objection to forward per ride, but it doesn’t feel like Neuf’s intention is really to get out of his job, but more that he is saying this is hard.

Today, I rode with the intention to not have a single kick out during our ride.  But, still have forward, so this was not going to skip the hard stuff, but my idea was to figure out if I could develop our ride so that there was never any point to him feeling the need to object to the effort required.  This translated into a riding a better warm-up, one where I was using feel, not exerciess

It worked.  We had a fabulous ride, shoulder in, haunches in, leg yielding, 10m circles, 20m circles, bending and counter bending, really focusing on suppleness and feeling when there was a tightness to work through.  Only increasing intensity or changing gait after checking all the soft, listening buttons.

At the end, I went out to play with Neuf on my little “project”, which is turning Neuf into my Warmblood Retriever.  Neuf picks things up for me…

So, I’m working on transitioning this into picking things up for me, when I am on him.  Namely, fly masks in the field.  Since horses often take off their fly masks in turn out, then the easiest way to spot them is from horseback, then you climb off, get the mask, climb back on, the logical next step is to get my horse to pick it up and give it to me.

We’ve made excellent progress.  He’ll pick up the fly mask, then turn around but he drops it before I can grab it.  I have been giving him his cookie, since he has figured out the next step in the puzzle, but last week he did it twice, then he just quit, because he was obviously confused as to what was expected.  I got off, had him pick it up and turn to give it to me on the ground, to back up a step, and stopped at that.   I’m trying to figure out how to break this down into smaller steps, so he understands to hang onto the fly mask until I’ve got it.  This might require some gentle, tug-of-war with a Wubba (a dog toy that Neuf likes to squeak and toss) play.

Bali is footsore in her right front.  I took her into the clinic for a workup to rule out soft tissue, and the vet determined it is in her foot, not likely a suspensory injury and he prescribed 2 weeks of resting/walk only, so I’m working on all kinds of walk work. It won’t do anything for her cardio-fitness, but it is good, contemplative/meditative work.  And, it definitely allows for giving my friend’s one year old nice, long rides!

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