Three Days…Four jumping lessons

Last week had a few LONG days at work, so that meant I could leave a bit early on Friday, to get a lesson on Neuf, in the uncharacteristically spring-like weather.

Friday’s lesson consisted of working on me being able to influence and  control the striding.  We used cavalletti for this exercise.  4 of them.  2 as a bounce at each end of the line, because it keeps you more honest if there are two poles to get over.  We rode the line in 5 and 6 strides on Friday.

When Neuf gets stuck and doesn’t want to go forward, he swings his butt around, so my job is to figure out where, keep his shoulders in line with his butt and send him forward, staying out of his face, no hands, just legs.  Neuf will always be a diesel engine. He is slow to warm up, but has definite power once he is warmed up.

In the canter, I’m focusing on keeping his shoulders and withers lifting up, while keeping the base of his neck low and stretching, which is a subtlety, given that the base of the neck and withers are next to each other.  It is so easy to have both low (which can lead to heavy and on the forehand) or both high (leads to hollow and losing connection), but I’m finally starting to get the feel of the difference.

I did some cantering with haunches out, with some counter-bend, not shoulder-fore.  This helped get him onto the right better.  Once we had the good canter, it was time to start taking it through the line.  I was able to get my 5 or 6 strides, as I chose, almost every time.  There are always a couple of times it is a little long or a little short, but nothing that was a “yikes”.

Saturday, I went back over and we started out on the same line, after warming up, but this time, I was to ride 5 and 7 strides in the line.  That went ok, but when we moved to a line with fences, it was just not smooth.  There was nothing awful but I was either getting in too deep or too long, too many “superman” jumps from Neuf.  Poor Martin was rubbing his head in frustration.  I finally pulled out an “ok” 5 followed by an “ok” 6, and we had to quit, because there was no reason to punish Neuf for my inability to see a distance!  And he was getting tired.

Sunday, I took Bali over with me, and had my first jumping lesson of the day on her.  She is much more compact than Neuf, so I don’t think we ever bothered with trying to get a 5 stride in the cavalletti line on her, 6 & 7 strides worked and was smooth.  Bali tends to drop her withers more in the canter, something I struggle with in her dressage as well, so it is good to work on this in a jumping lesson.  I was getting into and through the line much better than Saturday, so that was nice.  After we finished, Ashley asked if I ever do the 4 strides small canter, 4 strides big canter exercise, and I said that I do, every day…but with 5/5 as my count, but then I said, but I’m using it to develop my pirouette canter, not a forward pace jumping canter, so I might do some of the same exercise out in the big field, with a bigger canter – more medium to extended, less medium to collected and more open in the poll.

I stuck Bali in Neuf’s stall, got him tacked up and headed back into the ring, to see if I could redeem myself.

I could and did.

Neuf felt nice, did our usual slow warm up, and then shortly after we started the canter, he decided to object to my leg demanding more forward, he kicked out, 4 times.  The best part of this…I’m solid.  My leg stayed put, I didn’t get tossed about, I felt tight in the tack!!!!  His shape has changed.  So, around we went and pretty much nailed all the distances.  At one point, I got a big jump in, didn’t adjust soon enough, so the 6 was tight, but I passed the quiz, and said what I did wrong, came back and fixed that.  We ended on me calling out, 5 or 6 strides before I entered the line, and I got it every time!!!!


We finished up walking around the hay field with another boarder.  She was on her younger horse, who can be a bit spooky out there, but I assured her Neuf is solid and wouldn’t even mind if her guy spooked into him.  We were able to go around the top part 3 times, since we were chatting about life & my son, and so she was able to relax on him.

Excellent bunch of rides!  Neuf has today off, Bali & I will hack out.

Oh and Neuf was 6th place for USHJA Horse of the Year in Zone 3 for “Young Jumpers, 6 years old”!!!  Well done Martin Douzant & Neuf.


2016 HOTY! Neufenstein!

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Neuf Nailed It!

I took Neuf to another VHSA Associate schooling show today.  This time, the plan was to do 2’9″-3’0″, low jumpers.  I did one round in the 2’6″-2’9″ division, unjudged as a warmup, because I still feel better going over the jumps for the first time with them small.

Neuf was excellent.  More forward than last time, jumping well, super fun to ride.

The first round was beautiful.  Forward, met all the jumps in stride, it was FUN!  Which is why I do this crazy horse thing.

Then we waited around for the low jumpers, and someone was really looking for another amateur to fill the children/adults amateur division, which was scheduled to be 3’3″.  I’m sticking to my plan of building up gradually, and the plan was 3′ this show, not 3’3″, and so I said I wasn’t going to do it.  The beauty of a schooling show, they can decide to alter the prize list for a division, so they said they would run it at 2’9″-3’0″, so I scratched out of the low jumper division and added into the Ch/Amateur Adult jumpers.

Martin said to me “you have to try to beat her now”…he might be a leeetle bit competitive.

This did entail another hour+ of sitting around, so I got off Neuf, got his cooler to keep him warm…ah horse world terminology where we use a cooler to keep them warm. We hung out and chatted for a while, then it was time.

I went in and Neuf was fantastic.  Clear, forward, it felt easy.  He still looks pretty slow in the videos, but he feels much more forward.  We won.

Next round was the power & speed class, I went in, he was still forward, and it was great, I was to keep to the right in the 2-3 line, check, until the last fence, when I missed…and I missed big, but Neuf said “I’m supposed to go”, he jumped, couldn’t clear it, took down the back rail of the oxer, landed in a heap ,and I fell up his neck.  I too was in a heap and he was still cantering along, and I kicked free and fell off, yay Morven for nice, soft footing.  Drat.  It had been going so well.

I got up, came over, apologized to Neuf, as that was MY fault.  Dusted all the footing off me, Ashley wiped my boots, I got some padding to snug up the helmet, because it was falling into my eyes on landing (and I’ll be replacing it, since it did hit), got back on and get this…

Since I stayed on until after the timer, that fall was only judged as a rail in the speed half of the class, I still won with my 4 faults.

Then, even better?!? I rode the last course well!  I didn’t pull, I didn’t pick, I rode!!!!  This is a HUGE accomplishment for me.  Often, I’ve gotten backed off if I made a mistake, and then started riding poorly and backwards, and that is not a recipe for success.  but I didn’t do that!!!  Also, since I fell off vice being bucked off, it didn’t impact my confidence.

Since the other rider had faults, all I had to do was go clear, and we won another blue AND the championship.

Hopefully the video will come back to life.  YouTube seems to be having technical difficulties.  This is not the round where I fell.

Three blues and the championship!  woot!  Neuf earned his day off tomorrow!  Horse shows are fun, but they are even more fun when you win.

Now…for some advil and a hot soak in the tub!

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Jumping the Neufenstein!

I have been lax about writing down my Neuf lessons.  He’s back with Martin for Feb/Mar, for the indoor!!!  I miss having him at home, because I only ride him 3x a week when he’d over there, but Martin rides him the other days.  A much busier barn than home, and I think it has been good for Neuf to learn to deal with multiple environments.

I’d meant to grab a dressage saddle to take over, but I realized I hadn’t gotten it down from where it is stored, it has no stirrups on it, and I ran out of time, but I am feeling very successful despite that, I cleaned 4 stalls, groomed and blanketed 4 horses, got them turned out into the dry lots, packed my lunch and work clothes, and got to my lesson, then work, on time.  I did have to ask Pat for help with the hay and water, and the barn was not finished, just the stalls cleaned.

It worked out that I was in my jumping saddle, because since we are planning on going to a show on Sunday, we jumped.

As always, Neuf started out under-powered.  But I give him a long warm up, like the diesel engine he is, and then I start to put him together and work on the self discipline required to not nag him, and insist on a forward reaction to my FIRST request…not third, fourth….or tenth.  The wind was whipping this morning…and so there were some loud creaks coming from the indoor doors and the tarp (a window was broken a few weeks ago and there is a tarp in there until the new glass arrives)  was flapping and popping like a sail.  The pops would give Neuf a burst of energy, sometimes forward, sometimes sideways.

Turns out my leg is better and more solid when I’m prepared for a spin.

I worked on paying attention to when I use my leg.  Even made it firm enough to get a kick out, he needs to give me a reaction, and part of that is on me.  I let him be lazy, too often, doing too much of the work myself.

Jumping is considerably more fun when Neuf takes me to the fence.  The size doesn’t matter when I’ve got a good, quality canter, he just carries me over.  I realize that I did not shorten my stirrups, even when the jumps got close to 3′.  And his jump was still fun for me, I felt secure.

I still need to remember to separate my aids more on Neuf. Legs only or hands only.  Not both, so when I’m asking him to go, preferably on my first request,  I leave his face, even give a little, which if I do that in a dressage lesson on Bali, I’m going to get major correction from my instructor.

I’m getting more relaxed about jumping.  I’d had such a long hiatus from jumping that it has taken me a long time to really relax.  I am, finally, starting to feel like I can ride, adjust and actually be a pilot, not a passenger.  I might be approaching conscious competence, at least some of the time.

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A Glimmer of Possibility

The stars aligned for a lesson with Inga today.  I needed it!  Cliff notes for me, so I remember what to focus on for the next few rides.

I seem to be leaning a bit and weighting my right seatbone too much, so I need to really focus on lifting the right seatbone, which until I find my new balance, will feel unbalanced.  Hopefully, I can stop at the middle and not end up over-correcting.

I am still struggling with an honest connection to the right rein.  So, in an odd turn, I was actually asked to DO something with my left rein…besides keeping my hands still!  Progress!  Of course, I’ll still be corrected for being too busy with my hands when jumping…and the next time I forget my “legs not hands” mantra.  As I said, I’m like a marionette and my hands and legs are connected and I use my leg and my hand just pulls.  This is a VERY hard habit to break, largely because it is a completely unconscious movement.  Anyway, going left, Bali is finding it very difficult to stay balanced and bent without throwing her haunches in, so at the trot, I was really working to keep her haunches out, and that was met with the resistance of  stepping into canter, where I worked on keeping her haunches out and her bent and an honest connection on the right rein, which is where I need to give the left rein forward, so she doesn’t feel trapped by the right rein, then take it back.  Getting her to transition into the trot AND maintain connection AND keep her haunches out on the circle, whew…that was tough the first couple of times, but she got there, and the gaits improved.

I worked on keeping that honest connection in the right rein in shoulder in and half pass.  Not too much bend in shoulder in, not too sideways in halfpass.  When I’d lose the bend in halfpass, it was a few steps of leg yield off the opposite leg.

We worked on simple (through trot) changes a couple of times on a three loop serpentine and then moved to flying changes.  The simple changes through trot initially showed that weakness from warm up, wanting to keep her haunches in, so we did a couple of circles to refresh the stepping under while straight, then went to flying changes.  One was late, so Inga had me leg yield off the rail, about to the quarterline, then a flying change to the counter canter.  I held that a couple of times, then leg yielded back to the wall for another change to true canter.

For 3 changes across the diagonal, no counting, it fell apart the first time when I started on the true lead, so she had me leg yield to a flying change to counter canter, then did my three changes starting and ending in counter canter.  Other than one late behind, they were clean, although a few were croup high.

Homework is the canter/trot/canter keeping the haunches out, the leg yields, and keeping that connection even, especially on the right.  Oh, and  sit evenly!  I feel like there is a tiny hope that we can get to PSG.

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An easy January

I gave Neuf a month of vacation starting at the end of December and decided to take it easy on Bali with mostly hacks, so I’ve had a few light weeks.

I had a business trip to California, and took Neuf over to Martin, at The Frame Sport Horses, to give Neuf the first few rides, post vacation.  It was a good decision.  He bucked some the first ride back, but was back to his lazy self by day 3.  I had a flat lesson on Saturday and he was perfect, then a lesson on Sunday, with a long line of canter poles…I think 7.  He was really nice. He will stay at the indoor through the end of March, which means I’ll only get to ride him 3x a week, but he’s in full training there, so I’ll enjoy the benefits of that.

What was really nice on Sunday?  It turns out that Inga was right.  She told me I’d be able to sit that huge trot once he softened through his back, and at the end of my lesson on Sunday, I was just playing around while talking to another student, whose lesson had been no stirrups and sitting trot work.  So I started to sit the trot, because if he had to, then I could show him I could do it.  Then he said “but you have stirrups”, I dropped them, and it was even easier to sit the trot with a longer leg.  I probably trotted around a good 5 minutes or so, sitting, picking up and dropping my stirrups, while talking about the rider biomechanics of sitting.  I can sit Neuf’s trot!!!  I might even take a dressage saddle over to use in the indoor a time or two.

I also took Bali over on Sunday for a gymnastics lesson.  It was fun.  My jumping lessons on her are short, because she is just so good.  And, since she is really my DQ pony, we don’t want to jump her too high and it is really good for me to have Martin sending me more forward.  Bali is truly the perfect amateur horse.  I can trail ride her, alone or in company, I can take her to a dressage show, and show 4th level, respectably.  I can take her to little jumper shows and zoom around, and I could probably dust off the hunter coats and take her to a hunter show and collect some ribbons.  I love my mare!

I’m a lucky girl in the horse department.  It has taken a bit longer than planned on Neuf, but I have two super horses.  I didn’t blog too much last year, but maybe this year will be a year of more things to write up.

I’m going to take Neuf to jumper shows, local and rated, with a stretch goal of 1.10m by the end of the year, 1.05 would be fantastic as well, I’m comfortable at .85-.90m away and ok with a few fences at a meter at home.  Martin will show him some in the larger classes while I build up my confidence at the lower heights.  I’ll make sure I know all the rules for the different types of classes and maybe even keep a set of “classic” clothes in my trailer.  Classics usually pay a little bit of prize money, but require a coat & ratcatcher.

With Bali, I’m going to keep working to develop her strength in collection and see if we can get to PSG, lesson schedules allowing.  It would be really cool to get my USDF Silver medal on her, but only if it is fun.

Onward and forward in 2017 for my lazy WBs.

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2016 Over and Out!

2016 started out with a boom, I was having a fantastic riding vacation with Neuf and came off twice in the first two days of the year.  That was an inauspicious beginning, a 50% fall rate on January 2. Luckily it was down to .62% by December 31.

I had quite the year of ups and downs.  Neuf bucked me off, hard, in March, then when I learned to stop that, he pulled a few other stunts. Neuf went up for sale in late May.  He was bullying me, not fun, and as we like to say “had my number”.  But…he was still my horse, so I had to still ride him, my solution was to only ride him 100% supervised.  Martin showed him with great success in the 6 year old Jumpers, it is fun collecting primary color ribbons, especially blue ones. A few people tried him, nobody disliked him, but all chose a different horse, which was ok.  Every time someone would try him, I’d start hoping they wouldn’t want him.

I found my confidence again, upped my game-thanks to Martin’s help, “changed my number”, and started having fun on Neufenstein.  I started taking him to a couple of shows, and riding him myself.  He’s fun to jump, and he seems to be growing up…at last.  So, he gets to start 2017 with a plan of me riding him in shows, and I’d like to get to 1.10m jumper classes with him, then see how I feel.  Martin will probably show him some in the bigger classes too, because it’s fun, good for my confidence to watch him, and good for Neuf to progress.

Bali and I did a few shows.  3 dressage shows and a local jumper show.  We had our Fourth Level debut, and it was successful.  I had a late arrival one day, so a terrible score, due to lack of warmup, but overall, I was super pleased with our results.  And, taking home a lot of ribbons in the low jumpers was fun too.  I have the scores I need at Fourth Level towards my USDF Silver medal, but we aren’t ready for PSG yet.  I’m working on that, and so long as it stays fun, I’ll see about getting that Silver medal.  In the mean time, I go over and jump her with Martin, and I think it is helping improve the forward in her dressage.

Now for the annual summary for riding at TerraOasis farm. After 11 years of tracking rides, I’m up to 5170 rides. The  other riders at TerraOasis were somewhat lax in entering their rides.. so I did not tally any but mine and Patrick’s.

Rider Total Rides Average Rides per Week
Mel 483 9.29
Patrick 7 N/A

There were a handful of guests and helpers who rode as well, but I only tallied them into the horse counts. For 2016 on the horses, we lost Zen in summer with an irreparable injury to the same hock he’d injured in 2015, but then Cameron got Scuff, a super-cute OTTB with really nice, uphill movement. Ernie is doing well with Marit and Suzy is riding either Scuff or Sparkle when she can.

Horse Total Rides Average Rides per Week
Bali 228 4.38
Sparkle 88 1.68
Neuf 230* 4.42

*Neuf’s count was probably a bit higher, he was in full training for a few months with Martin Douzant at The Frame Sport horses, but I didn’t have a solid tally for all those weeks, but he was closer to 5.1 rides a week than 4.4.

I did not go anywhere this New Year’s weekend.  I stayed home.  Pat and I have been installing new LED lights in the barn.  The weather has been warmer than usual, which makes me happy.  Neuf is on a month’s vacation and will go back to work towards the end of January.

And, just because, Neuf winning the 6 year old Jumpers in Upperville in June. With Martin riding.

And with me, at a much lower height, 0.8m (2’6″-2’9″) at a local show before Christmas.

I don’t think I have any dressage video of Bali this year.

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Just jumping around

I have had one dressage lesson since the clinic debacle.  It was with Joanna, so a good lesson and I felt somewhat better about dressage, but Bali’s left to right lead change, which has never been super, seems to be back to late behind…or at best, close behind.  So, we have some work to do, strengthening and quickening the hind end, particularly the right.  Leg yields, steep half passes, haunches in, all the usual, leave the lead changes for when riding with someone only.

I’m feeling like a bit of a break is needed from dressage.  So, I’ve been taking Bali over to Martin’s when I go with Neuf and we are jumping more often.  We ended up my first lesson with “Bali does it all perfect the first time”.  We aren’t jumping very big, probably 2’6″ at the highest, but it is fun.

Neuf has been acting his age! I’ve truly been enjoying taking both horses, one stays on the trailer while I ride the other and there is no drama.  Both horses go to work, neither paws or has a tantrum in the trailer, and what seemed like an impossibility a year ago, is now reality.

Friday we did gymnastics in our lessons, it was good on both.  Today I had a flat lesson on Neuf, really working on getting him through and pushing from behind, and being honest on the right rein.  This means less bending to the left and more bending to the right, even when going left at times.  Straight and when he gets stuck feeling, sending him forward low.  He was very enjoyable and fun to ride.

An old picture, from March, which is the last time I have pictures of me jumping! Neufenstein!

Bali, she is a still my sports car.  She bounces over things well, tidy jumper, but I have to work to keep her lifting her withers up, and this will definitely help the dressage.  While jumping, the right to left lead change is always good still, and the right to left was sometimes late, but when I keep her straight, it was good.  She has a pretty hard right drift when jumping.  She also has a pretty big buck when she is so inclined.  And she was inclined today…Not sure what that was about, but it was ridiculous.

I ordered some new flower boxes on Black Friday.  Poly with flowers, so this will give me some color and motivation to get the jumps fixed up and repainted.  I really want to get new jump poles, the newer landscaping poles don’t really hold up at all.  My old ones from 1989 in Texas are still in better shape than the ones I bought in the 2005 era.

I’ll continue to play around with jumping over the winter, do a few schooling shows, maybe a couple of rated and see how things feel with regards to continuing towards my USDF Silver medal  in the spring.  At the moment, it has lost the fun factor on Bali, and that has to return. She is way too cool of a horse to not have fun, every ride.


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